As America pivots away, China bets on Pakistan

As America pivots away, China bets on Pakistan
Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre, L) shakes hands with Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain (centre, R) as Xi's wife Peng Liyuan (L) looks on after arriving at Nur Khan base in Islamabad April 20, 2015.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has just concluded an important summit in Pakistan. Given that much of Pakistani diplomacy revolves around securing foreign assistance, the government in Islamabad is celebrating Chinese commitments of $46 billion agreed during the visit in new financing for infrastructure investments -- especially as American interest diminishes amid the US troop reduction in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's role as a hub in China's "New Silk Road" initiative to enhance economic connectivity between Asia and Europe could benefit the whole region. But Beijing's interests go beyond Pakistan's development: The country is the gateway to a bigger Chinese strategic role in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.

China's "Go West" policy is part of its breakout of East Asia to become a more global power, and Pakistan is at the centre of that transformation.

In Islamabad, Xi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finalized agreements on $28 billion in new infrastructure projects, from electric plants and pipelines to roads and railways, as part of a US$46 billion (S$61 billion) Chinese commitment to help stabilize Pakistan and make it a gateway to the sea for China's landlocked western region of Xinjiang.

Sharif was appropriately grateful, saying, "Pakistan considers China's security as important as its own" in light of worries that terrorism and extremism emanating from Pakistan could threaten China. The two countries even agreed to create a special security force to project Chinese investments in Pakistan against terrorist attacks.

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