There could also be a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics by numerous western international locations, together with Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA, however Pakistan is sending a excessive stage delegation. The prime minister, Imran Khan, and 7 of his ministers have been on the opening ceremony of the Video games. It’s a sizeable group when you think about that Pakistan’s staff includes only one athlete: alpine skier Muhammad Karim.
Excessive on the agenda throughout Khan’s four-day journey are conferences with the Chinese language president, Xi Jinping, and premier, Li Keqiang, on numerous bilateral issues, together with the China-Pakistan Financial Hall (CPEC), the flagship undertaking of China’s Belt and Highway Initiative. Khan can also be more likely to meet with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
The dynamics and symbolism surrounding Khan’s journey to Beijing – his fourth since turning into PM in the summertime of 2018 – present necessary insights into wider worldwide, bilateral and home tendencies.
First, the go to indicators Pakistan’s ever-closer alignment with China. The significance of this relationship to Pakistan was recommended by the go to, in March 2020 by Pakistani president, Arif Ali Alvi, who was solely the second high-ranking international official to go to after the COVID-19 outbreak. Pakistan has additionally maintained a diplomatic silence over China’s therapy of its Uyghur Muslim minority.
By attending the inaugural ceremony of the winter Video games in obvious defiance of the western diplomatic boycott, Pakistan is signalling a progressive shift in its international coverage away from Washington and in direction of Beijing. This falls in with the present regional alignment which arranges China and Pakistan’s shut ties towards the backdrop of a strengthening India-US partnership.
A gathering between Khan and Putin throughout the go to can also be on the playing cards and it will be indicative of the rising Pakistan-Russia entente over the previous decade. Since 2011, contacts have intensified by numerous high-profile visits from each civilian and navy leaders. In 2014, the 2 international locations signed a defence settlement, adopted in 2016 by the “Druzhba 2016” (Friendship 2016) joint navy workouts, which have been repeated yearly since.
Khan and Putin spoke on the phone in mid-January – their second dialog in 4 months – to debate the scenario in Afghanistan. Their assembly throughout the Winter Olympics shall be one other alternative to debate this shared space of concern.
Financial ties and CPEC
In the meantime, each Pakistan and China are eager to undertaking a picture of the CPEC as a hit, particularly given it was framed because the “flagship undertaking” of China’s Belt and Highway Initiative (BRI). With investments within the vary of US$25-30 billion (£18-22 billion), together with the strategically positioned port of Gwadar, what occurs in Pakistan sends necessary messages concerning the broader BRI throughout Asia.
CPEC’s progress has been patchy since 2018. The tenth assembly of the Joint Cooperation Committee – the chief decision-making physique of CPEC – was postponed for 2 years due to a deteriorating safety scenario in Pakistan and due to the COVID pandemic. The assembly was finally held in September 2021.
Iftekkhar by way of Shtterstock
Beijing’s confidence in Pakistan’s safety atmosphere was not helped by an assault in July 2021 on the Dasu hydropower undertaking in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan, during which ten Chinese language nationals have been killed and 26 have been injured. The undertaking is being constructed by building big, China Gezhouba Group, with funding from the World Financial institution.
So Khan and his delegation shall be eager to ship a message that each one the mandatory safety measures have been put in place to make sure the safety of Chinese language nationals in Pakistan (there may be already a “Particular Safety Division” of the Pakistani Military solely devoted to CPEC initiatives).
Pakistan just lately agreed to pay US$11 million in compensation to the households of these killed and wounded within the assault, eradicating a significant diplomatic bone of rivalry between the 2 international locations and after which work on the undertaking resumed.
There may be additionally an extra financial level to Pakistan’s Olympics diplomacy. It has been reported that one of many major goals of the go to is to hunt a rollover of US$4 billion in Chinese language loans and to extend the dimensions of a US$4.5 billion commerce finance facility.
Equally, Pakistan is eager to draw Chinese language buyers within the energy sector, an space that was principally the main target of the primary section of CPEC’s implementation, and that has considerably taken a backseat after Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) social gathering got here to energy in mid-2018. The event of Particular Financial Zones and the relocation of Chinese language industries to Pakistan may also be mentioned.
There could also be little probability of Pakistan’s one-man staff securing any gold medals throughout the video games, however it is going to be attention-grabbing to see what Khan and his delegation will be capable of take again from Beijing – each by way of CPEC investments in addition to bilateral financial ties extra usually.
Filippo Boni doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.