- Chinese government is continually telling Pakistan that they do not have faith in the Pakistani security apparatus on the other.
- The sources claim that by sending its own security forces to Pakistan to guard its projects and citizens, China hopes to increase its strategic influence there.
As part of its incredibly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, China has made large investments in the conflict-prone Pakistan-Afghanistan region. According to top diplomatic sources, China intends to station its own military in specifically designed outposts to secure its interests in the two nations.
China has undertaken significant investments in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to further its goal of enlarging its influence in Central Asia.
China is a major source of financial, military, and diplomatic support for Pakistan, where it is estimated that Chinese investments have exceeded USD 60 billion.
Given the massive strength disparity in its favour, China has started to exert pressure on Pakistan to permit the construction of outposts where it would garrison its armed men.
However, Afghanistan, where the Taliban are currently in power, has yet to live up to China’s and Pakistan’s expectations in many ways.
High-ranking diplomatic and security officials in Islamabad, who asked to remain anonymous for the purpose of this report, are convinced that China’s People Liberation Army is waging a full-scale war to establish military outposts in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to facilitate operations and the expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
A diplomatic source claims that the Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong has discussed this issue in meetings with the leaders of Pakistan’s foreign ministry, the army, and the prime minister’s office, Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto.
Ambassador Rong has only lately arrived in Pakistan; he hasn’t been there since the end of March 2022 of this year.
But possibly the first official meeting between Ambassador Rong and the new government and state authorities took place during the conference where he demanded the establishment of outposts for Chinese military.
According to the source, the Chinese envoy has consistently pressed for the protection of Chinese citizens and projects.
In addition to requesting the use of the Gwadar International Airport for its fighter jets, China has already sought security outposts in Gwadar.
Another high insider said that the facility, which can be used for military purposes, will soon be operating as evidenced by its fencing.
The Pakistani populace might not be at ease with a significant Chinese military presence there, thus the problem has its own delicate aspects.
There have been worries that the nation is already in a scenario like a debt trap and that Chinese actions may reduce it to the status of a colony.
China and Pakistan each have different worries on Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and China anticipated unwavering support from the island nation following the Taliban takeover. This, however, has not fully come to pass.
Pakistani demands included keeping Indians out of Afghanistan as one of their top priorities. The Taliban, who are based in Kandahar, do not, however, have a strong enough affinity for Pakistan to be able to dictate policy.
The Taliban have a strong desire for a self-sufficient foreign policy, which includes relations with India. Even the Taliban’s minister of defence, Mullah Yaqub, has suggested receiving military instruction in India.
However, this was not the only instance in which Pakistan anticipated adherence to its demands from the newly elected Afghan government.
It was anticipated that the Taliban, particularly the Haqqani-affiliated organisations, would aid in the demise of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and turn over wanted militants to the Pakistani army.
Soon it became evident that the Haqqanis would not comply. The Kandaharis and some TTP leaders had similar ancestry, which was the explanation. The Pakistani army had no choice but to engage in difficult ceasefire negotiations with the TTP.
The Durand Line was also expected to be recognised as an international border by the new Afghan government. Pakistan had recently spent a lot of money building a wire fence, but within weeks the Taliban and TTP had cut the fence and claimed Pakistan’s FATA territory.
A source claims that General Bajwa, the head of the army staff in Pakistan, had previously expressed concerns about a Taliban takeover but was rebuffed by Faiz Hamid, his intelligence chief, and strong Corps Commanders.
China has expressed some alarm over the developments in Afghanistan. The Chinese are concerned about several things. There is no indication that the Taliban or Haqqanis are interested in turning over Uyghur rebels to the Chinese government.
China views them similarly as not being committed to expanding its BRI network in Afghanistan. According to the diplomatic source, China desires access to both central Asia and Europe via the CPEC and Afghanistan.
Beijing is worried that Balochi organisations and the TTP may be working together with Uyghur extremists to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Chinese nationals have been the subject of several attacks inside Pakistan, notably the bombing in Quetta in April 2021, which the Chinese Ambassador narrowly avoided.
Three Chinese nationals were killed by a Balochi suicide bomber close to the Confucius Institute in Karachi a year later. Due to these instances, China has once again pressed Pakistan to send its own security forces, a request that Pakistan has previously rejected.
The sources claim that by sending its own security forces to Pakistan to guard its projects and citizens, China hopes to increase its strategic influence there.
The insider added that China wanted to develop its BRI project and was eager to invest in Afghanistan, therefore Beijing needed to safeguard Pakistan and Afghanistan with its military installations.
China has brought up Pakistan’s history of granting outposts to the United States and other nations during the Cold War. China has currently made significant investments in Pakistan, and as time goes on, a serious outpost and security arrangement is required.
According to informed sources, Pakistan owes 300 billion Pakistani rupees to Chinese enterprises, who have already threatened to shut down Pakistan’s power plants if the debt is not paid.
The main Chinese projects currently underway in Pakistan are the Bostan Industrial Zone, Gwadar Port, Special Zone-I and Zone-II, some patrolling units on CPEC’s western alignment that cover the Awaran, Khuzdar, Hoshab, and Turbat areas, Mohmand Marble City (SEZ) close to Mohmand Agency, and Sost Dry-Port & Moqpondass Special Economic Zone in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan is caught in China’s debt-trap diplomacy on the one hand, and the Chinese government is continually telling Pakistan that they do not have faith in the Pakistani security apparatus on the other.
Pakistan does not want to irritate China, whose financial assistance it frequently receives. However, sources who sought anonymity for this study owing to their close contact to decision makers in the country argue that accepting the demand would not only further damage its reputation abroad but might also result in domestic issues.
Pakistan is in a difficult situation as a result of China’s most recent pressure tactic because whether it complies with the demands or not, it will suffer the repercussions.