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17 February 2024

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China: Pakistan Is To Us, What Israel Is To America

China: Pakistan Is To Us, What Israel Is To America

China: Pakistan Is To Us, What Israel Is To America

By Saadia Afzaal and Shrouq Tariq

Once upon a time, a decade ago, China said, “Pakistan is our Israel”. What did that mean? Why did China say this, and how did it affect Pakistan are the questions that pop into one’s mind once they read this statement.

Though the Chinese said it more than a decade ago, it holds importance for the Pakistanis. This statement came after an American diplomat questioned China’s support for Pakistan. “The United States never leave Israel alone, and that is what China does for Pakistan said China in return.”

This analogy highlighted the depth of the alliance between China and Pakistan, a bond that has grown steadily since its inception. This diplomatic connection has evolved into a profound friendship and partnership that spans trade, military cooperation, and strategic collaboration. A foundation laid during the initial decades of Pakistan’s existence, bolstered by China’s support during conflicts in 1965 and 1971, solidified this enduring rapport. China’s consistent backing on the Kashmir issue and its investment in contested territories underlined the depth of their alliance.

Remarkably, Pakistan played a similar role not only for the Chinese but also for the West, particularly the Americans. Pakistan’s role in bridging relations between China and the United States during the Cold War remains a significant historical feat. While Richard Nixon and his administration sought to mend ties with China, it was Pakistan that acted as the crucial intermediary. Amid the tense global geopolitical scenario, Pakistan facilitated secret meetings between American officials, including Henry Kissinger, and their Chinese counterparts. In 1971, Kissinger’s successful secret visit to China marked a turning point in Sino-American relations thanks to Pakistan’s strategic diplomacy. This pivotal moment showcased Pakistan’s adeptness at navigating international politics and fostering cooperation between major world powers.

However, despite being dubbed “China’s Israel”, the benefits of this alliance have not fully materialised for Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the strategic partnership, aimed to boost connectivity, trade, and investment. While CPEC has brought benefits, there is a lingering sense that it could have yielded even more substantial gains for Pakistan. The alliance, while strong, has encountered challenges, leading to a somewhat stalled relationship even after a decade of CPEC implementation.

Over the past 15 years, tensions between China and the United States have escalated, with the Trump era marking a particularly strained period. Against this backdrop, Pakistan’s role in mediating between the two superpowers has become even more crucial. Acting as a bridge between these nations has cemented Pakistan’s role on the global stage. Pakistan’s importance to both China and the United States is evident, yet the nation hasn’t fully capitalised on this strategic position to enhance its socio-economic development.

Pakistan’s unique status in the Chinese political rhetoric as an “Iron Brother” and its potential for collaboration underscores the importance of the alliance. If Pakistan can tap into this relationship optimally, its citizens might find more opportunities in China than elsewhere due to the favourable accessibility between the two countries. While maintaining strong ties with the West is valuable, Pakistan must focus on nurturing its bond with China.

The historical context of states forming blocs to safeguard their national interests and the reality of America and India aligning against China and Pakistan are nothing new. Such alliances shape global geopolitics, underscoring the need for nations to leverage their partnerships strategically. The powerful analogy of “Pakistan as China’s Israel” holds potential, if pursued diligently, to uplift Pakistan’s status and influence on the international stage. Beyond the pages of history books, it must evolve into a reality that benefits the nation on multiple fronts.

The intricate Pak-China-USA nexus has deep historical roots and strategic implications. Pakistan’s role as a diplomatic bridge between China and the United States and its long-standing alliance with China positions it at a crucial juncture in global geopolitics. The benefits of this alliance have been significant, but there’s room for further growth. By recognising and harnessing its status akin to Israel’s relationship with the United States, Pakistan can shape its destiny, capitalise on its strategic position, and foster socio-economic development that benefits its citizens and elevates its influence on the world stage.

Saadia Afzaal is a seasoned broadcast journalist and Vice President of External Affairs Suno News! She writes about International Relations, Defence and National Security. She can be approached at saadia.afzaal@sunotv.com

Shrouq Tariq @shrouqtariq is a research associate focusing on Middle East affairs and International Relations, with an M.Phil degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University.

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