In light of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China earlier this month, Jinnah Institute turned to foreign policy experts to solicit their opinion on the expectations of a financial bail-out, a reimagining of CPEC, and the subsequent impact on the bilateral relationship.
Salman Bashir, Former Foreign Secretary and High Commissioner to New Delhi
Prime Minister had recently expressed his ‘desperation’ at Pakistan’s dire financial situation. The government was obliged to seek an IMF bailout and seek help from friends. Friends cannot replace entirely the government’s own responsibilities. Chinese had always advised that the only realistic answer is to increase our exports, enhance manufacturing and cut expenses. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on essentials, we have frittered away time and effort in inanities – politics, corruption, blasphemy. These cannot be fixed quickly. History and deeply ingrained cultural reflexes are an impediment. To upend all constants of governance and societal order, simultaneously, is not reform but a revolution. Similarly, allowing doubts to be created over CPEC was a mistake. A series of serious missteps would have all of our sincere friends worried. Despite our own follies, the Prime Minister’s visit to China has been substantive and very productive. One hopes that our leadership and institutions have been able to grasp the ‘nuances’ of Chinese thinking and advice. Yes, nuances as behoves a civilized nation. It was not civil to ‘publically’ go looking for a financial package. Thus analysts and media are looking for the numbers. Chinese are sophisticated and would not want to belittle Pakistan in this manner. Surely, China will offer all required assistance but with dignity and grace. More importantly they are focused on providing long term solutions to our economic woes. We must never allow ourselves to become a liability for our friends. Leaders, politicians and institutions must wake up to this common sense imperative and view the world with open eyes and mind. The best advice from China is to be always mindful of your national circumstances and requirements. The people of Pakistan come first.
Amb. Zamir Akram, Former PR to the UN and advisor Strategic Plans Division
Since the 1962 China-India war, China’s relations with Pakistan have assumed a strategic dimension which has grown with China’s emergence as a great power in an increasingly multi-polar world. American resistance to China’s rise in alliance with India among others, has only re-enforced this partnership. In this geo-political environment, there can be no down-grading of China-Pakistan relations by either side. Therefore, instead of viewing the Prime Minister’s visit to China though a partisan prism or unquestioningly accepting western assessments, there needs to be an objective evaluation based on realities. Contrary to claims, the Chinese have provided short term relief which, together with the Saudi support, will help overcome the balance of payments crisis over the short term. It will also provide greater negotiating space in the ongoing talks with IMF. Beyond that, moving into the next CPEC implementation phase, with rationalization of some projects to protect Pakistan’s interests and agreeing to trade in Yuan, will help boost exports while improving the over-all macro-economic situation. However, much would depend on the new government’s ability to benefit from this opportunity, especially to improve domestic economic performance. While China has a strategic interest in supporting Pakistan, we too need to do our part.