Reliable Security Information
China-Pakistan Relations

Introduction

Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1951, China and Pakistan have enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the People's Republic of China in 1950 and remained a steadfast ally during Beijing's period of international isolation in the 1960s and early 1970s. China has long provided Pakistan with major military, technical, and economic assistance, including the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology and equipment. Some experts predict growing relations between the United States and rival India will ultimately prompt Pakistan to push for even closer ties with its longtime strategic security partner, China. Others say China's increased concern about Pakistan-based insurgency groups may cause Beijing to proceed with the relationship in a more cautious manner.

The India Question

China and Pakistan have traditionally valued one another as a strategic hedge against India. "For China, Pakistan is a low-cost secondary deterrent to India," says Husain Haqqani, a former visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and current Pakistani ambassador to the United States. "For Pakistan," he says, "China is a high-value guarantor of security against India." Mutual enmity between India and Pakistan dates to partition in August 1947, when Britain relinquished its claim over the Indian subcontinent and divided its former colony into two states. Since then Pakistan and India have fought three wars and a number of low-level conflicts. Tensions remain high over the disputed territory of Kashmir with periodic military posturing on both sides of the border.

India has long been perturbed by China's military aid to Pakistan. K. Alan Kronstadt, a specialist in South Asian affairs at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, writes (PDF) that observers in India see Chinese support for Pakistan as "a key aspect of Beijing's perceived policy of 'encirclement' or constraint of...

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