by Sanjeev Kulkarni: Today (Tuesday, May 17) is the first day of Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s visit to China. The visit starts in Shanghai from which city the PM will travel to Suzhou on China’s fastest and most modern train service. In Suzhou he will address the first conference of World Cultural Forum Tuesday afternoon. The conference is being held under the theme ‘Dialogue and Cooperation for World Harmony and Common Development’. The visit will continue through the week, ending on Friday. The visit will be the third direct contact between the top leaders of the two countries in seventeen months.The timing of the visit is conspicuous in view of the proximity to the recent raid by the U.S. within Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, although it was scheduled six weeks ago, before the May 2 raid. The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has been strained by that raid, while Pakistan and China have gone through many years of improving relations.
According to the South Asia Analysis Group, none of the records recovered from the bin Laden compound have indicated any direct contact between the head of Al Quaeda and anyone on the Pakistani government or military. That has not stopped calls for investigation in the U.S., though. This was emphasized by a visit to Islamabad Monday by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) who gave a veiled warning in a press conference there that (from Reuters):
“The road ahead will not be defined by words. It will be defined by actions.”
“I emphasised to our Pakistani friends — and they are friends — that many in Congress are raising tough questions about our ongoing economic assistance to the government of Pakistan because of the events as they unfolded, and because of the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.”
In Pakistan, there is widespread displeasure regarding the raid.
A listing of facts about Pakistan-China relations from Reuters:
- China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbour, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.
- After the United States killed Osama bin Laden — the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — in Pakistan on May 2, China called the event a “progressive development” but also defended the Pakistani government, which has been criticised in the U.S. for failing to find bin Laden, if not harbouring him.
- China has been Pakistan’s biggest supplier of conventional arms, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s database, and many analysts believe China supported Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme in past decades.
- China has helped Pakistan build its main nuclear power generation facility at Chashma in Punjab province, where a second, 330 MW unit started last week, and it has plans to build two more there, despite international misgivings about risks to nuclear safety and the integrity of non-proliferation rules.
- Last year, the China National Nuclear Corp said it was also in talks about building a separate 1-gigawatt atomic plant in Pakistan.
- China has helped build the deep-sea Gwadar port on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast, partly with a view to opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan, to western China.
- According to a Pew Global Attitudes Project (pewglobal.org) survey of Pakistani public opinion in 2010, 85 percent of respondents said they had a favourable view of China, and 3 percent said they had an unfavourable view.
- By contrast, the same Pew poll found 17 percent had a favourable view of the United States, and 68 percent had an unfavourable view.
- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has visited China frequently, and urged China to invest more in his country.
- Annual two-way trade was worth $8.7 billion in 2010, a rise of 27.7 percent on the previous year, according to Chinese statistics.
- Trade flows go heavily in China’s favour, and last year it exported goods worth $6.9 billion to Pakistan, a rise of 25.5 percent on 2009, while Chinese imports from Pakistan were worth $1.7 billion, a rise of 37.2 percent.
- Pakistani officials have recently said the two nations could increase bilateral trade to $15 billion a year by the end of 2012.
- China also helped build the Gwadar port in Baluchistan, and the Karakoram Highway, connecting northern Pakistan to far western China, which could be upgraded to provide a conduit for Chinese energy imports from other markets.
- China has urged mainly Muslim Pakistan to take action against Uighur militants from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang who have slipped in to Pakistan in past years.
- On July 5, 2009, deadly violence broke out between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang, killing 197 people, many of them Han residents attacked by Uighurs. Pakistan deplored the riots, winning praise from China for its stance.
- The safety of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan has also been a major concern for China. Several Chinese workers were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in recent years.
Sanjeev Kulkarni is an entrepreneur based in Pune, India. He worked for large organizations in board level position before venturing on his own. He is currently involved as an investor in health care software company and as an investor, mentor in an automation company. Very widely traveled, he has experience of working in different geographical areas with people of varying nationalities. He did his BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.