The Bleak Side of Sino-Pak Relations
The contemporary world order is not a guarantee of ‘all-weather’ friendship between the two neighboring states unless interests of both sides converge. The realist prone system, pertinent in the modern world, demands timely and necessary amendments in the bilateral relationships. The same is happening in Pak-China relations which are, primarily, rendered to ‘all-weather and deeper than seas’. To date, Sino-Pak ties have endured every complication with little harm to bilateral engagements. Weather it is killing or kidnapping of Chinese workers in Pakistan or Beijing’s stance on Kashmir, both the adjacent states remained in closer proximities despite abundant international sways. However, security environment in Xinjiang province of China in recent years have underlined a troubling point which can dent the gracious historic ties. Continuous attacks on Chinese state institutions and lately on public gatherings are believed to be carried out by radicals who are funded by some Middle Eastern groups, trained in Pakistan, and combat experience from Chechnya and Afghanistan.
A province of 18 million inhabitants together with country’s largest oil and gas reserves, Xinjiang holds great significance as it not only generates one third of China’s cotton but also shares border with Pakistan, India, Central Asian Republics, Russia and Mongolia; thus enables Beijing to practice some influence in the adjacent countries. Several separatist movements are operational in Xinjiang however; East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is prominent of all and has transnational connections. ETIM is active in the province for years and got huge inspiration after successful struggle by some Central Asian Islamic communities against former Soviet Union, which empowered them to gain independence from Soviets. Xinjiang is victim of demonstrations, bombings, killing and political massacre for more than a decade and this is done by ETIM and the radicals belong to Uighurs Muslim community. Government reports claimed that Uighurs separatists are responsible for more than 200 terror attacks since 1990, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries. The reports also highlighted the fact that these culprits trained in Pakistani area of FATA and in Afghanistan. Additionally, Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri stated that “those behind (recent) incidents had ‘a thousand and one links’ to terrorists in neighboring Pakistan”. He did, however, add that “violent activities by individual terrorists would not affect bilateral ties”. The worries further enhanced when in 2012, Chinese officials demanded Pakistan to hand over Uighurs separatists taking shelter in Pakistan’s northern areas. The train attack in Chinese city of Kunming in March 2014 killed 29 followed by May attack in Xinjiang market resulted in 39 deaths, the worst human loss since 1997 when 100 died in pro-independence uprising in the town of Ili, also raised voices in international media that the perpetrators could have roots in Pakistan however, Chinese authorities have not pointed out finger towards Islamabad as yet. On its part, Pakistan has been uttering that it has taken several steps to defuse terrorists and their networks alike.
Indeed, northern belt of Pakistan is facing serious disorder, lawlessness and is a safe sanctuary for terrorists coming from remote areas of Pakistan as well as from Afghanistan. FATA based extremists generated chaos and hammered every nook and corner of Pakistan and therefore, being an contiguous state, China believes that unrest in the FATA region has certain spillover effects for its already troubled Xinjiang province. China has demanded severe actions against militants and many voices arose inside China for unsympathetic stroke against trouble makers. Despite enormous public pressure, Beijing doesn’t want to entangle itself directly with culprits fearing any move against Muslim community may become a reason of Al-Qaeda affiliated units sneaking into Xinjiang. Consequently, China has taken limited strides to undo terror network inside China and stressed Islamabad to resist the flux of terrorists and offset their hideouts in FATA. Chinese execution of 13 terrorists and Pakistani Army’s Operation Zarb E Azab is considered a vital blow to culprits involved in unrest in Xinjiang and in Pakistan too.
The all-weather cordial relationship is needed to be justified with timely and influential undertakings by Pakistan against all covert/overt hands causing unrest in Xinjiang by exploiting Pakistani territory. Because Pakistan cannot afford to lose another ally in this critical time. It was China which eased our economic foes, defence deficiencies and military vulnerabilities and it will also be China, for sure, which will shield Pakistan from India’s regional hegemonic ambitions, rescue our energy needs and to safeguard our external confrontations during troubled times.