China exploits Pak vulnerability to make Islamabad dance to its tune

In recent years, as a result of the strong and long-standing diplomatic and security ties between Pakistan and China, the financial dependence of Pakistan on China has increased alarmingly.

And it may not be wrong to say that China’s increasing influence over Pakistan, especially in terms of economic linkages, has amplified its domain, pushing Islamabad into policy-level challenges and economic dependence on Western countries, notably the US, who are the rivals of China.

The West, especially the US, believes that China’s debt diplomacy has effectively surrounded and trapped Pakistan through its massive investments in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is an important part of Beijing’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

And with its ongoing expansion and inclusion of various other projects, spread across the rail, road and geographic map of Pakistan; Beijing’s influence on Pakistan is reaching to sensitive and critical levels.

China is by far the most powerful country in the South Asia region and its rapid growth and expansion makes it a much bigger threat to global superpowers like the US. And to tackle the threat, the US is seen as a country working up its support to India to compete with China.

On the other hand, America’s relations with Pakistan have always been shrouded with demands, counter-terrorism level strategic shortcomings and cross accusations in relation to the tense situation in Afghanistan. And, that is the prime reason why the US has always been skeptical of Pakistan’s role in the region and has been sharing serious concerns over Pakistan fast becoming a ‘Chinese client state’.

The recent findings of the China Index 2022, published by the China in the World Network (CITW), has also put Pakistan on top of the list of countries that are high on Chinese influence.

US think-tanks, too, have expressed reservations over Chinese overseas investments in Pakistan and Beijing’s constant attempts to gain power through its debt policy.

The China Index 2022 report also highlights sectors where Chinese influence over Pakistan is taking strong and visible control. The “dependence cluster” and “rule making cluster” term used to refer to increasing Chinese influence includes — Pakistan military; law enforcement; foreign policy; technological domains; political decision-making, and economy.

It is a fact that Pakistan, a country under towering external debts, owes at least 30 per cent of its foreign debts to China. And China has evidently replaced the US to become Pakistan’s largest supplier of military hardware as well.

At a time when Pakistan is faced with its worst economic crisis, when it is struggling to evade a looming recession and suspected bankruptcy, when the security situation in Afghanistan has spilled over and is showing up in a resurgence of terrorism, Islamabad’s foreign policy, especially in relation to regional development, relevance, presence and influence, have become a point of serious concern.

China’s increasing influence can be seen both as a sigh of relief as it injects life-saving financial and economic remedies for the country and can be seen as China’s use of Pakistan’s vulnerability to expand its soft power in the country to establish it as Beijing’s extended power unit that moves on China’s command.

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