South Asian Insider
Pakistan’s Alliance With China Comes At A High Cost
(News Agencies) Here’s What You Need To Remember: In a future of multilateral alliances and blocs, Pakistan would be well advised to choose its allies carefully. In the event of becoming a vassal state of China, it will primarily have itself to blame.
Pakistan has made several major grand strategic mistakes since its creation in 1947, including the attack on India in 1971, which led to Pakistan’s dismemberment. However, Pakistan is in the midst of making another grave mistake, and it is one seldom discussed. This is the high cost of its alliance with China. Due to the poverty in its long-term, strategic planning, Islamabad’s conception that the Sino-Pakistani alliance is key to Pakistani security introduces dependence on Beijing and creates the avenue for Beijing’s exploitation and manipulation of it—with the result that Pakistan finds itself less secure and alone in the world. We argue that Pakistan should reverse course. The alliance with China ultimately serves China’s ambitions above Pakistan’s. Islamabad should extricate itself from its alliance with China, and improve its position by aligning with other, democratic states. The rise of China has had profound impact on Pakistan’s strategic calculations. A more powerful and outwardly amicable China causes a natural reaction in Pakistan to align itself more closely with China in order to balance against India, its long-term adversary. Pakistan’s leadership believe that an alliance with China will somehow replace the long-term Pakistani dependence on the United States in mediating its relations with India. They also think that this relationship will help improve Pakistan’s poor economic situation.
To the contrary, Pakistan’s strategic choice to ally with China is a profound mistake. Before it gets drawn even closer to China, Pakistan should rethink its strategic choices. The alliance with China is a strategic blunder because China is a poor alliance partner. Islamabad should note that China has tended to treat its allies as subordinates instead of partners in shaping its geostrategic ambitions. Indeed, Beijing has not been subservient to any state since the Sino-Soviet split by the late 1950s. China’s steadfast allies are Cambodia, Iran, Myanmar, and North Korea—hardly an august group. Beijing’s relationship with Moscow underscores the authoritarian character of its alliance relationships. China’s behavior as an alliance partner is often boorish, exploitative, and Machiavellian. China’s economic assistance to Pakistan has come with very high costs. It has vowed to invest up to $60 billion in Pakistan as part of the CPEC but most of this investment will be extended in the form of loans—with a high interest rate of up to 7 percent. Sooner rather than later, Pakistan will find itself unable to service these very costly debts held by China. As it is rapidly moving all its eggs into the Chinese basket, it will quite likely have to enter a “debt-for-equity swap” with China—something that Sri Lanka recently had to do when it was unable to service its Chinese debts. The Sri Lankan deal handed China control of the strategically important port of Hambantota (and fifteen thousand acres of surrounding land) for ninety-nine years. The current Sri Lankan government is trying to extricate itself from such arrangements put in place by the country’s previous administration.
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