India Concerned About new Pakistan-China-Russia Synergy
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping
NEW DELHI: New Delhi is watching closely as Pakistan moves to deepen economic and defence ties with China and Russia. China’s President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in Islamabad on Monday, bringing with him an expected promise of $46bn of investment.
The investment is centred on the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will connect Gwadar in Pakistan's Balochistan province to China's western Xinjiang region. It is expected that deals worth some $28bn are ready to be signed during the two-day visit, with the remainder to follow. The spending significantly outweighs American investment in Pakistan.
Whilst in Pakistan, Xi is due to meet his counterpart Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and senior ministers. The Chinese President will also be addressing Parliament on Tuesday.
As per the CPEC plan, a network of roads, railways and energy developments will stretch 3000 km -- connecting China to the Indian Ocean and marking a major advance in the country’s plans to extend its influence across South and Central Asia.
Pakistan, in turn, hopes that the investment will aid its flailing economy and help end chronic power shortages. Ahsan Iqbal, the Pakistani minister overseeing the plan, told the AFP news agency that the investment related to deals that were "very substantial and tangible projects which will have a significant transformative effect on Pakistan's economy.”
The Chinese President is also expected to discuss security concerns with Pakistan, especially relating to Muslim separatists from Xinjiang who are allegedly linking up with Pakistan militants.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and Russia are moving closer as well, as news circulates that Russia has agreed to invest $2bn in Pakistan toward building an 1100-km-long energy pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. "Pakistan and Russia have finalized an LNG pipeline deal in a recent meeting in Moscow and the two countries will sign a government-to-government basis deal next month,” Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was quoted saying by the Express Tribune.
The deal follows a Russian-Pakistan defence agreement inked in November last year during the first visit of a Russian Defence Minister -- Sergei Shoigu -- to Pakistan in 45 years.
The developments indicate a change in Russia’s longstanding restrictive arms supply policy toward Pakistan, a charge that Russia denied. News that Russia was planning on supplying Mi 35 defence helicopters to Pakistan led to reports that Russia was lifting its arms embargo on Pakistan.
For India, the developments are a concern as they point toward the possibility of a Pakistan-China-Russia synergy in the region. Analysts believe that Russia is moving closer to Pakistan as it searches new energy and defence markets. India is the world’s largest arms importer and Russia’s largest weapons buyer. Reports have suggested that Russia’s decision to sell arms to Pakistan may be motivated by India increasingly turning to the US, France and Israel for defence purchases.
As Russia and India relations dip, India and China have historically shared a troubled relationship with a border dispute dominating bilateral ties. The two countries share an ill-defined 4,057km (2,520 miles) border that has complicated relations. In fact, border tensions overshadowed a high profile visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in September 2014, for talks with PM Modi. As hundreds of Chinese soldiers moved into Indian territory in Ladakh, bilateral relations between the two countries dipped and India raised “serious concerns” about the transgressions. “Clarification of the Line of Actual Control would greatly contribute to our efforts to maintain peace and tranquillity and I requested President Xi to resume the stalled process of clarifying the LAC,” PM Modi had said at the time.
More recently, in February, China objected to PM Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying that it could add fuel" to the territorial dispute. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned Indian Ambassador Ashok Kantha to say that PM Modi's visit "infringes on China's territorial sovereignty and interests, magnifies the dispute on the border issue and violates the consensus on appropriately handling the border issue."
Arunachal Pradesh is a bone of contention between the two countries, with China maintaining that the border dispute is confined to the area, whereas India claims that China occupies 38,000 square km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west. The dispute led to the 1962 Sino-Indian War, and has characterised relations between the two countries ever since.
The developments concerning Pakistan, Russia and China come as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit both China and Russia. The Indian Prime Minister is expected to visit China in May and Russia in July to partake in the BRICS summit. Whether India will make any move to offset Pakistan’s deepening ties with the two countries remains to be seen.