Timing of Shehbaz’s maiden Beijing visit said a lot about China’s place in Pakistan

Islamabad, Nov 14 (IANS)
Amid the current political crisis in Pakistan, with Imran Khan vowing to storm the capital Islamabad to oust the Shehbaz Sharif-led government to regain power, China has not only made Islamabad realise its priorities, but also reminded of the commitments Islamabad stands on in relations to Chinese investments in the country.
It is a known fact that Chinese investments in Pakistan have been provided with assurances by the government and secured by the Pakistani armed forces.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif concluded his maiden visit to China at a time when 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China also successfully concluded. The importance of relations between the two countries can be signified by these two major events.
It would not be wrong to say that Pakistan’s uncertain political situations in the past have been responded to by a more certain standing and clear approach by Beijing, which has very much been significant in shaping up the country’s domestic and foreign policies.
Pakistan’s crippling economy has once again been shouldered by China as it plays a crucial role in pushing Islamabad’s economy towards recovering stability with another bailout package worth $9 billion in terms of investments.
“China will continue its fundamental policy of opening up and provide new opportunities to Pakistan and the rest of the world through continuous development,” stated Chinese President Xi Jinping during his meeting with Shehbaz Sharif.
With China’s massive business investments under its ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has not only been unique as it has helped Beijing in having a major say in important political and foreign policy based decision in the country but also has been able to activate immediate and more practical response from the power centres of the country, who are guarantors of the billion dollars worth of investments.
The business relationship between the two countries certainly meets more to the interests of China and helps sustain the deteriorating economy of Pakistan. CPEC continues to spread its branches with intent to extend itself into Afghanistan. While Pakistan looks to ingest more development projects into the programme to increase the domain of Chinese investments in the country.
Most importantly, the close communication and coordination between the two countries on security matters, concerns on which have been addressed in relation to CPEC project security parameters and also in terms of the political instability in the country; China has been able to use its influence to weather political storms in the past in Pakistan.
The recent terror attack by a Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) affiliated female suicide bomber in Karachi prompted a strong response from China, which refused to initiate CPEC projects until security of its nationals was fully guaranteed and Pakistan agreed to further strengthen capabilities of the law enforcement agencies and the investigators.
In view of increasing incidents of terrorism, involving the non-corridor projects, Pakistan had proposed the establishment of a separate joint working group for coordination on security efforts. But it was mutually decided that a Joint Technical Expert Working Group (JTEWG) would be established for the security of non-CPEC projects. The JTEWG would evaluate the services of private security companies.
Pakistan’s reliance on China for its energy needs, financial bailouts, development-based investments and projects etc has certainly pushed it to a more compromising position. However, many believe that the China-Pakistan relationship has always been strong because of the trust and reliability both sides enjoy.
Pakistan has extended its support to China in various matters, while China has been constant in siding with Pakistan on many matters related to economy, foreign policy and terrorism at global platforms.

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