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Will China Crush U.S. Military Role In Pakistan?

By Polina Tikhonova. Originally published at ValueWalk.

China-Pakistan all-weather friendship enters its turning point as Islamabad turns to Beijing to help replace U.S. military aid and technical cooperation.

In the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump much-awaited Afghan strategy unveiled in August, which largely focused on putting a burden of fight against terrorism on Pakistan, US-Pakistani defense ties are expectedly dwindling week by week.

China-Pakistan relations us military aid
skeeze / Pixabay

As China and Pakistan are in the middle of their major air force drills, which began last week and will run through September 27, Islamabad is likely to turn to Beijing in a bid to replace U.S. military aid to the country. The Trump administration has earlier decided it would give Pakistan access to $225 million worth of military assistance only when Islamabad stops providing “safe havens” to terrorist elements.

China-Pakistan military cooperation on the rise

China-Pakistan friendship has seen its new rise in the wake of Trump’s address to the nation last month, in which the U.S. President warned Pakistan had “much to lose” by continuing to harbor terrorists on its soil, the claim Islamabad has vehemently denied ever since US-Pakistani relations went sour in 2011.

Now Islamabad is likely to prompt China to develop their military and technological cooperation to compensate military aid losses suffered from the deteriorating US-Pakistani ties.

The ongoing joint air force exercises between the Pakistan Air Force and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) indicate that the two allied nations have boosted their air force coordination since 2011, the year when the joint drills dubbed “Shaheen” saw their first installment.

For this year’s Shaheen VI training exercise, China sent various of its advanced aerial units to Pakistan, including Shenyang J-11 twin-engine multirole fighters, Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, KJ-200 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. The Chinese army also contributed surface-to-air missile crews and radar operators to the drills in order to boost air force coordination with Pakistan.

Is China replacing US military aid to Pakistan?

While the increased aerial coordination of China-Pakistan air forces is set to improve counterterrorism operations against non-state groups in China’s northeast as well as potentially boost China’s military preparedness during the border row with India, the state of Pak-China defense partnership is coming under increased scrutiny amid Trump’s decision to cap Pakistan’s access to U.S. military aid.

When asked if China could replace U.S. military aid to Pakistan, a Chinese diplomat speaking to ValueWalk on condition of anonymity said, “not at the moment.” The diplomat also added that U.S. military aid to Islamabad and China’s military aid to the South Asian nation are “two different things.”

Natalya Zamarayeva of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Sputnik on Sunday that “whether China will be able to replace the US in terms of giving military aid to Pakistan, it is a question which can be answered in the future.”

Are China and Pakistan really ‘iron friends’?

Although Pakistan is still recovering from the political crisis caused by the disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in July, it’s already clear that the new Pakistani PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi places great importance on China-Pakistan military ties.

This was evident from Abbasi’s visit to a Pakistan Air Force airbase located at Sargodha in the Punjab province during the ongoing China-Pakistan air force drills. Last month, Abbasi met with China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang and the two exchanged in-depth views on promoting partnership between the two nations and agreed Islamabad and Beijing are “iron friends.”

Pakistan’s interest in promoting China-Pakistan relations was also evident from last week’s visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to China to discuss bilateral relations, war on terror in the region and achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. During the meeting, China reaffirmed its support for Islamabad and praised its all-weather ally for the fight against terrorism.

Beijing immediately reacted to Trump’s harsh words about Pakistan last month, with China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying urging the international community to “fully recognize the efforts made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism.”

chunying quote on pak-us relations

China and Pakistan reach security cooperation deal along CPEC

China-Pakistan anti-terrorism efforts are expected to soar following Beijing and Islamabad’s agreement to step up cooperation in security and the fight against terrorism along their joint economic corridor. The security cooperation deal was reached last week during a meeting between Pakistani FM Asif and Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party Central Committee.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a pillar of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s game-changer Belt and Road initiative, is reportedly being protected by Pakistan’s 15,000-strong military force along the corridor that connects China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s Gwadar port through a network of rail and road projects.

As both the regions are facing challenges from Islamic militants, the two nations have strengthened their joint anti-terrorism cooperation to protect the $54 billion corridor.

China’s Pakistan policy has remained intact

In what comes as a yet another indication of China’s support for Pakistan in the wake of President Trump’s criticism toward Islamabad, BRICS declaration unveiled earlier this month did not link Pakistan to terrorist groups. The declaration made by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), reinforces Islamabad’s stance that banned terror groups are not accepted on Pakistan’s soil, as said by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal while addressing reporters on Monday.

Mr. Iqbal insisted that China’s policy towards Pakistan has remained intact that the BRICS declaration against terrorist groups contained “nothing new” even despite the mounting pressure on Pakistan from the international community.

Are China, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey forming a bloc?

Pakistani FM Asif’s trips around key Eurasian nations revived a theory that China-Pakistan, Russia and Turkey could form a united front in response to President Trump’s Afghan strategy.

The three nations were included in the list of nations visited by Pakistani FM last week. While exact details of talks between the nations, whose positions on the Afghan war are in accord, remain undisclosed, experts argue that Beijing, Islamabad, Moscow and Ankara could be on a path to forming a bloc.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Moscow-based political analyst Andrew Korybko told ValueWalk last week that Turkey joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could allow Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey to form a “bloc within a bloc for strengthening regional integration processes and reforming the global economic and financial systems.”

The SCO is a China- and Russia-led Eurasian political, economic, and security organization. Turkey has made a U-turn in its foreign policy plans lately, seemingly abandoning plans to join the European Union (UN) and seeking closer ties with SCO nations instead.

The post Will China Crush U.S. Military Role In Pakistan? appeared first on ValueWalk.

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