THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 15 AUGUST, 2017
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: China is now on a outreach offensive with Pakistan and Nepal, seemingly as part of a concerted strategy linked to its pressure on India to withdraw her troops from Doklam. The stand off that continues with threats of a military conflict from Beijing has also seen a diplomatic offensive by China insofar as India’s South Asian neighbours are concerned.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, speaking at the 70th Independence Anniversary of Pakistan was particularly effusive, declaring “as close neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, China and Pakistan have a lips-and-teeth relationship.”And said at “We need close cooperation now more than ever,” without of course specifying the reasons.
The rest of the speech was a virtual eulogy of Pakistan-China relations, of how over the past 70 years, “the courageous and unyielding Pakistani people have resolutely defended their national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity against hegemony, power politics and external interference, achieving one heroic success after another in safeguarding the country's core interests and national dignity.” That most of the wars and skirmishes have been with India is the moot point.
Wang heaped praise on the development of Pakistan and its “soaring” GDP; it;s “commitment to the path of peaceful development”; it’s “enormous sacrifice for world peace and regional stability”; it’s active involvement “in the international fight against terrorism”.
The Chinese leader spoke of how “similar historical experiences and common struggles have brought our peoples closer together.” And went on to state that China will never forget Pakistans support “at the crucial moment when New China was striving to break the external blockade and restore its lawful seat in the United Nations.”
And then if anyone was left in doubt, he asserted towards the end of his speech that China was ready to strengthen all round strategic cooperation with Pakistan. And to support “the efforts of the Pakistani government and people to uphold independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Pakistan in developing and implementing counter-terrorism policies in light of its own national conditions, improving its external environment and expanding external exchanges and cooperation.”
At a time when China is warning India of the Doklam standoff impacting on economic ties Wang spoke of Pakistan as an important partner in the Belt and Road initiative and promised increased economic cooperation between the two countries. And stated that the two countries share a friendship “based on shared aspirations and tested in adversity. It will not only last a lifetime, but also be passed on from generation to generation. No matter how the international environment may evolve and how China may grow, we will always be a good neighbor, a close friend, a trusted partner and a true brother for Pakistan.”
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang is currently in Nepal on a four day visit. It might be recalled that the Chinese mission in New Delhi, singled out Nepal for a briefing in the wake of the tensions with India recently. In fact the Chinese official media said as much with, “The border dispute with India has highlighted the necessity for China to accelerate investment and economic aid to Nepal.”
According to a commentary in the Global Times on the visit, “Nepal has told its embassies in New Delhi and Beijing that it will maintain an independent and neutral position on its neighbors' standoff, and it will not be influenced by either China or India, according to media reports. For a landlocked country that shares a long open border with India and depends heavily on India for imports and exports, Nepal's stance clearly shows its intention of counterbalancing Indian influence. That stance also reflects China's diplomatic efforts in recent years.”
The commentary highlighs the infrastucture investments made by China in Nepal in a bid to “ overshadow India's commitment of $317 million”. Nepal is also part of the Belt and Road initiative, that India has stayed out of. China however, is clearly looking to expand its role to a deeper economic relationship with Nepal to help revive its “ailing economy” as the commentary suggests.
And then states very clearly the strategic importance of Nepal “which borders Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region (and) has played an important role in guarding against Tibetan separatists.”
“There is every reason for China to offer more generous aid to such a small but important neighbor” is the conclusion.