Opinion / From the Press

Islamabad a pivot for China's involvement in Islamic world

By Li Yang ( Updated: 2015-04-22 14:07

Islamabad a pivot for China's involvement in Islamic world

Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) holds talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, April 20, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua] 

President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan will make concrete the economic and trade cooperation initiatives proposed in the "One Belt and One Road" plan by China, fostering interconnectivity and common development between the two countries. Islamabad will be a pivot connecting China and the whole Islamic world and act as a balance to the Sino-India relationship in the region, says an article by Lin Minwang, a researcher of international relations at China Foreign Affairs University.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that China plans to build with Pakistan is at the intersection of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Pakistan's important geopolitical position, which connects Central Asia, South Asia, China and the Middle East, also gives meaning to the strategic importance of the economic corridor.

Helping Pakistan to develop its economy serves the strategic needs of China's diplomacy. And Islamabad is a bridge connecting China and the whole Islamic world.

Both sides realize now that China-Pakistan cooperation should go beyond security into trade and economics. A sluggish economy will give birth to terrorism and secessionism. A prosperous and stable Pakistan is in line with the objectives of China's diplomatic strategies.

China's help in improving Pakistan's energy and infrastructure will overcome obstacles to Pakistan's economic rise and will benefit local people.

Pakistan has the potential to become a regional economic, trade and logistics center. The Gwadar port, under the management of Chinese companies, can become a national economic center and one of the most important harbors in the Arabian Sea.

After Prime Minister Narendre Modi took power in India, US-India relationships warmed quickly. And the ties between the United States and Pakistan cooled. India's participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization may further weaken Pakistan's role in Central Asia and South Asia. Chinese President Xi Jinping's timely visit to Pakistan is a strong signal that Islamabad is important to it.

Most countries in South Asia actively support China's "Belt and Road" initiatives, and only India shows deep suspicion and concern over the strategy's transparency.

Another concern of India is that China will take advantage of the "Belt and Road" initiatives to expand its influence in South Asia, and, in particular, to penetrate the Indian Ocean, marginalizing India in the region using its huge economic muscle.

The construction of the China-Pakistan economic corridor sets an example for Nepal and Sri Lanka, and will propel India to adjust its attitudes to China's "Belt and Road" initiatives, and the economic corridor connecting Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, in which China proposes to promote regional connectivity.

There are some difficulties that the corridor faces. Both roads connecting China and Pakistan meander through the Kashmir Plateau and their transport capacities are very limited due to harsh geography and climate.

The small cargo handling capacity of the Gwadar port, the lack of electricity in Pakistan and the stressful security situations are all difficulties for the construction of the corridor, as well as problems the corridor needs to address.

However, the strategic benefits of the corridor could offset its shortcomings in the long run.

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