China - Pakistan Relations : Post Chagai

04 Apr, 1999    ·   178

Bhartendu Kumar Singh says "Pakistan’s nuclear tests made no adverse impact on China – Pakistan relations"


Pakistan ’s nuclear tests made no adverse impact on China Pakistan relations for two reasons. First, after the Indian tests on May 11 and 13, Pakistan was expected to provide a `matching response', and China was reconciled for any such eventuality. It was alleged that Pakistan 's nuclear tests were done in collaboration with China . Since the 1980's, China was providing critical assistance to Pakistan 's nuclear programme. Chinese entities have sold missiles and conventional weapons to Pakistan . Beijing has supplied Islamabad with M-11 medium-range missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, as well as the technology to build nuclear-weapons. On 9 April, 1998, the Defence Minister George Fernandes alleged that China had provided material assistance, including technology, to Pakistan for developing the intermediate range ballistic missile, Ghauri. Pakistan 's Chagai tests, according to China , were a `response' to India 's Pokhran tests, and not a prelude to the nuclearisation of South Asia . When Shamshad Ahmed, Pakistan's foreign secretary, rushed to Beijing for consultations with the Chinese leadership in the wake of the Pokhran tests, China agreed with Pakistan’s views that `India's nuclear explosions were a threat to Pakistan's security', and assured him that `China will not do anything which would not be in Pakistan's national security interests'.



Second, unlike Sino-Indian relations, China and Pakistan enjoy an `all-weather friendship' built on solid foundations. Since the early 1960s, China and Pakistan have `cooperated' and `coexisted' with each other due to their mutual conflict with India . Both have a common interest in opposing India - for Pakistan , the stake is national survival; for China , it is the need to check a major power that has the ability to challenge China and destabilize Chinese rule in Tibet . Moreover, China is sensitive over Islamabad 's security concerns and did not allow the Chagai tests to affect the traditional Sino-Pak friendship.



Development after the Chagai tests



In the aftermath of Chagai, there has been no difference in the security relations of China with Pakistan , defence has continued to be the core sector of cooperation. While the world was criticizing Pakistan for its tests, China on June 1, 1998, quietly passed new regulations on export of sensitive nuclear technology to other nations. The primary motive was to facilitate the Sino-Pak nexus regarding nuclear and missile technology transfer. According to reports in the Washington Times, June 4, 1998, Beijing was busy selling weapons to Pakistan with little regard for their impact on the South Asian region. In August 1998, Beijing received General Jehangir Karamat, Chief of the staff of the Pakistan army.



This was followed by a five-day high profile visit by the Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haotian to Pakistan in February, 1999. The visit, which coincided with the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Bajpayee's `bus diplomacy' to Lahore, was not a sheer 'coincidence', but a skilled display of Pakistan's time-tested  friendship with China. The message was clear -  any thaw in Indo-Pak strains would not be at the cost of Pakistan 's friendship with China .



Apart from defence, Beijing and Islamabad do not share 'cooperative enthusiasm' in other fields. Actual trade between the two countries declined by 8% to $992 million in 1998-99 compared to the previous year, and China has not been very helpful in saving Pakistan from the heat of U.S. sanctions. The growing separatism in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China has forced Beijing to seek Islamabad 's help to contain fundamentalism in this region bordering Pakistan , although it is yet to be seen how the latter cooperates with China on this issue, given its internal political constraints.



For India , the continuation of the China-Pakistan collusion in the post-Chagai period will have an adverse bearing upon its security. Together, they form a 'nuclear arc' along India 's borders in the West and North. The solution lies in taking concrete steps to improve ties with China and Pakistan . Conciliatory gestures by India to deny the 'China-threat theory'; increase in Sino-Indian trade by 5% in 1998-99 to $1.972 billions as compared to the previous year; and the `Lahore Declaration' in Pakistan are some of the steps which may lead to what Charles Osgood calls `Graduated Reciprocation in Tension - Reduction' (GRIT) along India's borders.