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CAN ISLAMABAD AFFORD TO OFFEND BEIJING?

PAK-CHINA VISITS UNFOLDED

Imran Khan, Prime Minister of  Pakistan, paid his first official visit to China on November 2-5, 2018. Not very long ago in September, Pakistan COAS Qamar Bajwa was also in attendance at the office of the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping.

Why a sudden rush of high profile visits to China?

As per sources, it is learned that the Chinese premier Xi Jinping has once again tightened the noose around Pakistan. Doing so is not a very difficult task for the Chinese as they have by now gained total control of Pakistan.  It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Pakistan has unfortunately turned into an economic slave to China and Pakistan’s military is merely a subset of PLA. From Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, fighter jets & submarines to Biryani the Chinese now have their stamp on almost everything in Pakistan.

So now when China is floating neck deep in Pakistan would it allow a pipsqueak like Abdul Razak Dawood to flutter his newly acquired wings? Definitely Not. In a jiffy, the Chinese Premier summoned the real caretakers of Pakistan – the Pakistan Army. Following which Qamar Bajwa rushed to China to carry out damage control, to smooth out Chinese alarm at comments by Pakistan’s commerce minister, Abdul Razak Dawood, who suggested suspending for a year projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistan leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that includes recreating the old Silk Road trading route.

A report from the UK-based Financial Times said that Dawood criticized CPEC and Pakistan Army for granting China “too favorable” terms on many projects. Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we’re looking at because it’s not fair that Pakistani companies should be disadvantaged.

CPEC has been projected in Pakistan as a magic wand to resolve all the issues in that country as it would bring much needed foreign investment, business, and prosperity. Over 30 news channels of Pakistan have been assuring their audience that a golden age is just around the corner. In short, everyone in Pakistan media, military, politicians, non-state actors (Hafiz Saeedare in love with CPEC. But few sane minds in Pakistan can see the wrongs done and are raising concerns regarding the economic viability of CPEC.

CPEC could turn Pakistan into China’s “economic colony”

It is not recently that Pakistan has started showing signs of discomfort with the relationship with China on CPEC. Imran Khan too in the past had accused the previous Pakistani government and Pakistan Army of depriving other provinces, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and allocating a major share of the projects to the dominant Punjab province. Pakistan has a long history of opposing the CPEC. Chinese intentions with respect to CPEC were suspected previously also but muffled for reasons best known to the deep state.

Khurrum Sher Zaman, a senior official of PTI, too had said that “It’s not just the ruling party that has reservations about CPEC; many other political groups, particularly those with support in smaller provinces of the country, are skeptical about China’s growing economic clout. Some analysts say that CPEC could turn Pakistan into China’s economic colony. But that does not mean that the government wants to scrap it.”

Lately, the facade of ‘all weather friend’, ‘iron brother’ and similar such adjectives used by China & Pakistan seem to be wearing off. Imran Khan’s four-day visit to China where he met President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, seems to be a clear indicator that there is a strong undercurrent cracking up the ‘friends for benefit’ relationship between the two controversial nations. It is also said that the recent controversy about Atif Mian, a world-renowned economist who was first appointed by Khan on his economic advisory board and was later sacked due to his Ahmadi faith was a result of Mian’s anti-CPEC approach and closeness to the IMF.

China turns its back to Pakistan in times of crisis

The Chinese backlash is but obvious. Pakistan dared to openly talk of scrapping CPEC irked the Chinese. And the dragon’s fury is sure to carry out full damage at every shot – but in its own style. China’s policies are multi-faceted and Beijing will likely avoid open hostility. Pakistan will surely pay the price.

Deception measures are at its best, and the series of press statements by embassies of both sides are proof enough to unfold what exactly is cooking inside the power corridors of China. The fact that Beijing has remained silent about Islamabad’s need for immediate financial support to tide over its current difficulties despite the two Pakistani heads zipping to China seeking apology-learning-monetary help is probably a warning for Pakistan to cure its foot in mouth disorder specifically with respect to CPEC.

Pakistan’s economy has been in poor shape over the past several years. While its current account deficit jumped 43% to $18 billion ($15.4 billion) in the fiscal year that ended June 30, its fiscal deficit rose to 6.8% of GDP.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves, meanwhile, are dwindling, plummeting to just over $9 billion now from $16.4 billion in May 2017. The central bank has been forced to devalue the currency three times since December. Rising global crude prices present another challenge, as Pakistan imports about 80% of its oil needs.

Viewpoint

By integrating its foreign, economic, and security policies, China is advancing its goal of fashioning a hegemonic sphere of trade, communication, transportation, and security links. If states are saddled with onerous levels of debt as a result, their financial woes only aid China’s neo-colonial designs. China through OBOR initiative is supporting infrastructure projects in strategically located developing countries, like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan often by extending huge loans to their governments. As a result, countries are becoming ensnared in a debt trap that are leading these countries to a vulnerable to China. Extending loans for infrastructure projects is not inherently bad. But the projects that China is supporting are often intended not to support the local economy, but to facilitate Chinese access to natural resources, or to open the market for low-cost and shoddy Chinese goods. In many cases, China even sends its own construction workers, minimizing the number of local jobs that are created. For China, however, these projects are operating exactly as needed: Chinese attack submarines have twice docked at Sri Lankan ports, and two Chinese warships were recently pressed into service for Gwadar port security.

Bottom line – Pakistan cannot dare to offend China, especially when Donald Trump has kicked Pakistan out. Imran Khan’s new government tried to raise pressure on China but instead got crumbled.  Now Imran Khan will once again walk with a begging bowl to IMF as China has shown its back. Remember nothing comes for free with China.

05 Nov 18/Monday                                                             Written by Afsana 

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