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Pakistan-China Relationship & India

  • 05 Feb 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Policy of Panchsheel, Hunza-Gilgit region, Kargil conflict of 1999.

For Mains: Indian foreign policy, Pakistan-China Relationship, History of India-China ties.

Why in News?

Recently, the Government was questioned in Parliament on the pretext of foreign policy. The opposition has criticised the current policies as responsible for bringing Pakistan and China together.

  • In response, the External Affairs Minister has asserted that the two countries were always close and shared a rich history of cooperation on many fronts.

What is the Background of the Pakistan-China Relationship?

  • Initially, Pakistan was a member of two United States-led anti-communist military pacts, SEATO and CENTO, it was seen as part of the non-Soviet bloc - and China, under Mao Zedong, was on the other side of the aisle.
    • On the other hand, India had a working relationship with China. The two countries had the same anti-colonial, non-aligned approach and they together gave the policy of Panchsheel.
    • However, this relationship quickly changed due to the war between India and China in 1962.
  • 1962 War: The India-China war of 1962 led to China developing closer ties with Pakistan. 
    • In a boundary agreement in 1963, Pakistan ceded the Shaksgam Valley to China.
    • The Shaksgam Valley or the Trans Karakoram Tract is part of the Hunza-Gilgit region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and is a territory claimed by India but controlled by Pakistan.
    • The agreement laid the foundation of the Karakoram highway, built jointly by China and Pakistan in the 1970s.
  • 1965 War: Pakistan got support from China diplomatically in the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
    • In fact, analysts say that Pakistan was emboldened into aggression after India’s defeat against China in 1962.
  • US-China & Pakistan: The real diplomatic bonhomie began in the 1970s when Pakistan facilitated the outreach between the US-led by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and China’s Mao and Zhou Enlai.
  • Nuclear Cooperation: The relationship between China and Pakistan developed over the 1970s and ’80s. Nuclear cooperation was one of the key pillars, especially after India tested its nuclear device in 1974.
    • China has played a significant role in helping Pakistan develop its nuclear energy technology.
    • In September 1986, they signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer of civil nuclear technology.
    • In 1991, China agreed to supply Pakistan with its indigenously developed Qinshan-1 nuclear power plant.
    • After India tested its nuclear device in 1998, Pakistan followed suit —largely due to help from China.

What is the History of India-China ties?

  • The 1988 rapprochement between India and China with Rajiv Gandhi’s visit became a watershed moment.
  • There was a clear shift for China, where it saw ties with India from an economic lens and focused on trade, while separately talking to India on the border dispute.
    • From that point onwards China followed a cautious approach vis a vis India and Pakistan.
  • During the Kargil conflict of 1999, China advised Pakistan that they should withdraw troops and exercise self-control.
  • China adopted a similarly cautious approach after the Parliament attack in 2002, the Operation Parakram buildup, as well as the Mumbai terror attack in 2008.
  • This was also visible in the way China responded when the Balakot air strikes took place after the Pulwama attack in February 2019.

What is the Present Status of the India-China-Pakistan Triangle?

  • The US-India closeness started by the nuclear deal in 2005-06 left both China and Pakistan worried.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative has manifested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through the disputed territory claimed by India.
    • From China’s perspective, it offers access to the western Indian Ocean through the Gwadar port in Balochistan.
    • However, from India’s perspective, the Gwadar port is a part of the String of Pearls Strategy, for the encirclement of India.
  • India’s August 2019 move to abrogate Article 370 and revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has brought China and Pakistan even closer.
  • In 2020, China signed a defence pact with Pakistan to enhance defence cooperation between the Pakistan Army and the People’s Liberation Army.
    • Pakistan has procured Chinese-made combat drones or unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
  • Pakistan endorses China’s position on its core issues including the South China Sea, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet.
  • After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, China has now sensed an opportunity to get into Afghanistan for influence and resources with help from Pakistan.

What are the Implications of China-Pakistan Closeness For India?

  • Two Front War: Convergence between the two countries raises the real specter of a ‘two-front’ war.
  • Negotiation of Lost Territory: China now looks to negotiate to ‘recover’ Indian territories that it claims namely, Aksai Chin, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
    • It also positions China to play a role in Kashmir and the region.
  • China’s Rise to Global Power Status: China and Pakistan both share a common objective to prevent India’s rise.
    • With China’s rise as a global power, India views its partnership with Pakistan as a greater concern than before.

Way Forward

  • Improving Relations in South Asian Neighbourhood: To begin with, India should do well to improve relations with its neighbours.
    • It should not be caught in an unfriendly neighbourhood given how China and Pakistan will attempt to contain and constrain India in the region.
  • Improving Relations in Extended Neighborhood: The government’s current engagement of the key powers in West Asia.
    • It should be further strengthened in order to ensure energy security, increase maritime cooperation and enhance goodwill in the extended neighbourhood.
  • Improving Relations With Russia: India must also ensure that its relationship with Russia is not sacrificed in favour of India-United States relations given that Russia could play a key role in defusing the severity of a regional gang up against India.
  • Improving Condition in Kashmir: From a long-view perspective, a political outreach to Kashmir aimed at pacifying the aggrieved citizens there would go a long way towards that end.
  • Improving Indo-Pacific Strategy: For India, the Indo-Pacific strategy involving the US, Australia, Japan and European partners is a key bulwark against the axis.

Source: IE

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