Ignoring China’s rather stale relationships with countries in South East Asia, its economic and PR strategy is working wonders as it explores trilateral security cooperation with India and Pakistan. For any economic project to be successful in Pakistan, China will have to make sure that India does not sour the milk. China and Pakistan are building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and China has commissioned a preliminary research study for building a controversial international rail link. It will connect China’s Xinjiang region to Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan.

The issue of a rail link is extremely contentious from India’s point of view. The project will pass through Gilgit-Baltistan which has a disputed territory claimed by India. Additionally, China has claims to the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh. Reports from India give the impression that they are skeptical of China’s designs and China may want to expand its borders eventually to include Gilgit-Baltistan and Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese regime also has its eyes on the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipelines through the region, which will significantly reduce the distance for China to import oil from Central Asia.

Pakistan is set to enter into 25-year power purchase agreements with Chinese companies but there are concerns over existing mechanisms that led to the piling up of over Rs300 billion of circular debt. Pakistan has an almost beggarly economic situation. For example, the pending pipeline project with Iran which we still haven’t found the money to pay for and fines are now piling up. With such conditions, our government has to make sure we can cough up the money for the Chinese projects and that these project can yield income and jobs for Pakistanis in the future.

There is something to be said about the rhetoric about Pak-China friendship. China banned fasting and not a peep was heard by Pakistan. This goes to show that economic interests always trump social concerns, and that conservative rage is selective. We must remember that the overtures of friendship from China have real power concerns behind them. These are complex economic decisions and it is the job of the government to explore these deals fully and protect its population from any adversity that may come. Local demand and local industry are already faltering with an in inflow of Chinese goods. In the international system, every country is out for itself, and friendship always means singular or mutual gain, it is never a handout.