Pakistan, US, China and CPEC

By Fahad Rasheed

Throughout the history, Pakistan has managed to cultivate good relations with United States and China, thanks mainly to Pakistan’s geostrategic importance in the region.

Pakistan remained a frontline ally of United States for a long time and has received assistance in the form of military and economic aid.

Pakistan’s relations with China have a long history as both the countries have many mutual interests. China is Pakistan’s most trusted friend with “India factor” being common.

But the multibillion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has created uncertainty with rest to Pakistan’s ties with both China and United States.

CPEC is a flagship project, an important component of the Chinese long vision initiative One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR). This is an example of how China eagerly wants to dominate the regional powers and may be also the International powers by using its vision of connecting itself with Europe with One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) initiative.

China wants to increase its influence in the region by connecting itself to Europe through the South Asian Region which is the shortest possible route to Europe.

China is cashing the fruit of long friendship with Pakistan as geographically Pakistan lies in the region which is the shortest route to Europe for China and thus China collaborated with Pakistan to initiate CPEC, a land route going across Pakistan from Pak-China border in Khunjerab Pass to Gwadar, a deep water port located in the Arabian Sea, through which China will start its economic trade with Europe.

By initiating CPEC, China also wants to experiment that how they can execute it on other regions of the OBOR project.

United States of course do not like this idea of Chinese vision as they do not want China to dominate in the International Arena and emerge as a threat to them. Pakistan was a frontline ally of United States during Cold War. United States aided Pakistan militarily whenever it needed, first against USSR, then Taliban and now against Terrorism.

United States mainly gave Pakistan military aid until 2009, when United State Congress authorizes $7.5 billion in development aid. This shows that United States always used the geostrategic location of Pakistan to counter its rivals such as USSR in the past and now Taliban. The mean behavior of United States towards Pakistan caused many ups and downs in the relations between the two throughout the history. On one hand, United States wants to increase its influence in Pakistan in order to counter China as an emerging power and on the other hand, is also bonding with India which is Pakistan’s frontline rival and which China considers to be its biggest rival in the region.

China shares long positive historical relations with Pakistan dating back to 1951 when formal diplomatic relations between the two initiated. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize China. This opened a new chapter of history of bilateral friendly cooperation. China has always firmly supported Pakistan’s development and implementation of anti-terrorism security strategy based on its national conditions. Pakistan and China shared economic, defence, and cultural cooperation over the period of time which strengthened their relations in more positive way. China wants to dominate as a regional power in Asia and India is the only power who can compete with China in the region, so to counter India, China is supporting and of course, aiding Pakistan which is India’s arch rival.

If we put it in this way, China needs Pakistan to counter India and Pakistan also needs China to counter India in the region and this is the basic reason of strong bilateral relations between China and Pakistan.

Pakistan, being the main actor in the multi-billion dollar project, will receive many gains in the form of economic progress and domestic and regional stability. China also, will want a secure and stable Pakistan in order to make CPEC successful. Thus, the project will automatically insure the security and stability of Pakistan, and resulting in a tilted policy of Pakistan towards China. United States obviously will see this China-Pakistan mutual understanding of CPEC as an emerging competition to itself and will try to contain it in any way it can and the situation leaves United States with only one option and that is to tie knot with India which will automatically tackle both China and Pakistan.

This change in behavior of United States policy towards Pakistan leaves Pakistan in a confusing situation. Currently, Pakistan is focusing on the success of CPEC and in the process, ignoring some of the United States perspectives about CPEC. China is also investing vastly in the project with Billions of Dollars and by developing Pakistan’s infrastructure to make sure that CPEC will be a success.

For China, CPEC is a regional small part of its larger and international vision with the help of which China wants to initiate its OBOR project. This means China will leave no stone unturned to make the project successful. Pakistan also wants to gain profits from the project as it will boost up its economy resulting in the shifting of its policy towards China more than United States. United States will take this as a challenge and will try to Strict its policy towards Pakistan. This contemporary situation is resulting in the creation of a dilemma in relations of Pakistan with United States and China and it will be a tough decision for Pakistan to make between United States and China in the near future.


The author, a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan, studies International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University 

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