China Pak relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to end official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the PRC.
China Pak | History
- Given its geo-strategic location, China has been keenly interested in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) for long.
- After the Sino-India war in 1962, according to the border settlement agreement of March 1963, Pakistan conceded 5,180 km of Indian Territory to the Chinese.
- In the late 1960’s, China began constructing the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to link Kasghar in Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China with Abbottabad in Pakistan, through the Khunjerab Pass.
- China has always treated Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan and doesn’t consider Kashmir as an integral part of India.
China Pak | Joint Patrol
- The first China-Pakistan joint patrolling in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) took place in the border region on 21 July 2016. Nevertheless, Chinese troops had been patrolling this region since 2014
- The region is included in the sphere of the PLA’s new Western Theatre Command that also includes Afghanistan, POK, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, the Central Asian Republics and part of Mongolia.
- The immediate reason cited for the patrolling was fleeing of Uyghur’s from the Xinjiang province to join the ISIS.
China Pak | Karakorum Highway
- Officially it is known as N-35 in Pakistan and China National Highway 314 (G314) in China. Built in 1978 with Chinese assistance, it is the only overland route connecting China to Pakistan. Much of it runs through Gilgit-Baltistan region.
- It also cuts through the sector between Asia and the Indian subcontinent bringing China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan within 250 km of each other. The KKH is emerging as a relatively viable transit route.
- The restoration of KKH is directly linked with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
- However, given its terrain and high cost of transit, the KKH is unlikely to become a major trade and energy corridor as billed; its value will be more strategic and military, than commercial.
- Interestingly, if Gwadar has to become a reality the only land connection it has with China is the KKH.
- It provides China with a window to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Taking into consideration, the difficult terrain of the highway, the expansion of the KKH remains a challenge for China.
- Against the backdrop of One Belt One Road (OBOR) the region has become very important for China as the ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor’ (CPEC), flagship project of OBOR passes through this region.
China Pak | Companies in PoK
- Apart from the strategic importance, POK is rich in resources. It has vast deposits of precious stones, abundant water resources, Indus and its tributaries flow through POK.
- In 2009, Pakistan Railways and China’s Dong Fang Electric Supply finalised an agreement to build a rail link between Havelian in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Khunjerab Pass over Manshera district and the KKH.
- The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CBRC) and Pakistan National Highway Authority are jointly working on the KKH project.
- The Gilgit-Baltistan region is rich in both metallic and non-metallic minerals, energy minerals precious stones.
- Shahzad International is coordinating with Chinese investors for digging uranium and gold in Gilgit-Baltistan.
- Chinese miners have also obtained lease in Astore district for the extraction of high quality of copper.
- Reports state that a $6 million investment proposal was submitted by Pakistan Surpass Mining Company, a subsidiary of China’s Xinjiang Surpass Mining Company Ltd, for mining in POK. It is also working towards setting up a hydropower station and Molybdenum processing plant in Chupurshan Valley.
China Pak | The Uyghur Issue
- The POK region is connected through the XUAR in China, which is infested with the problem of Uyghur separatist movement.
- China is also concerned about the possibility of networks in the POK serving as conduit for the movement of Islamist terrorist elements that could establish links with separatist movement in XUAR.
- In order to tackle the problem, on 15 June 2015, Zarb-e-Azb military operation was launched by Pakistan in NWA of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) targeting in particular foreign soldiers who were assembled over the years by the Pakistan Taliban. However, it is still continuing and there are linkages with the ISIS.
- The National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) in its policy document has identified Xinjiang as ‘geographic advantage and its role as a window of westward opening-up’ as paramount for the success of OBOR. Hence, a lot is at stake for China in the region and any anomaly in the region might prove detrimental for the CPEC success.
China has often stated that it is neutral towards toward the issue of Kashmir but the tilt is very obvious. The joint exercise has also given China an excuse to familiarise itself with the disputed terrain. The increasing activities of China in the POK, establishes the fact that it is bound to affect larger Indian interest.