U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent outburst on Pakistan will further boost economic and defence ties between Beijing and Islamabad, including China acquiring a Pakistani military base close to Iran’s Chabahar port, an official media report here said on Friday.
Mr. Trump’s January 1 Twitter attack against Pakistan where he accused it of providing safe havens to terrorists appears to be helping boost already close ties between Pakistan and China, a report in the state-run Global Times said.
It attributed Islamabad’s decision to allow Chinese currency in bilateral trade and financing transactions as China has stepped up its investments in the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Significantly, the report quoted a Washington Times report that China is in talks with Pakistan to build its second overseas military base as part of a push for greater maritime capabilities along strategic sea routes.
The facility could be built at Jiwani, a port near Iran’s Chabahar close to the border in the Gulf of Oman, and is located a short distance from Gwadar in Balochistan province which is currently being developed by China to gain entry into the warm waters of the Arabian Sea opposite the Mumbai coast.
Jiwani is located just a stone’s throw from Chabahar port being jointly developed by Iran, India and Afghanistan to ensure a trade corridor for Indian exports to Afghanistan.
Observers say Jiwani could be a pressure tactic by Pakistan as China is already developing Gwadar where earlier reports said Beijing plans to station its marines.
While the official Chinese media said Mr. Trump piling pressure on Pakistan may push it closer to Beijing, analysts here point to already existing close ties between the two countries.
Pakistan’s move to allow Chinese currency is not a dramatic policy change, as the yuan is already accepted by many Pakistani companies, said Dong Dengxin, director of Finance and Securities Institute at Wuhan University of Science and Technology.
He said the timing may be significant.
“This is more of a political statement in response to pressure from the U.S., telling the U.S. that Pakistan has a great relationship with China and that Pakistan would become even closer with China,” Mr. Dong told the Global Times.
On China establishing a military base at Jiwani, Lin Minwang, a professor at Fudan University’s Centre for South Asian Studies said “both Beijing and Islamabad have the ability to build a joint naval and air facility in Pakistan, but it is unnecessary at this time”.
But he said it could be a backup plan in response to the Indo-Pacific strategy of the U.S. and its allies.
Prof. Lin believes if the U.S. and its allies push their Indo- Pacific strategy to the extreme, China will surely carry out a plan with Pakistan to ensure the security of sea routes.
Interestingly, the Global Times said China has established its “first overseas military base in Djibouti”, in the Horn of Africa in Indian Ocean.
China officially states that it is only a logistics base to service its naval personnel deployed for anti-piracy operations. Besides Djibouti, China has also acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease.