By Hamza Ameer
Islamabad, Mar 28 (IANS): One of the biggest opponents of China may be the biggest wall between a full-fledged Pakistan-China alliance, says a report by the Washington-based US Institute of Peace (USIP).
The report titled, "The Future of the China-Pakistan Military Relationship", digs into the current status of relationship between Pakistan and China, terming it at a "threshold alliance", arguing that Washington may prevent Pakistan from extending its bilateral cooperation and relationship with Beijing, being one of the biggest opponent.
"Pakistan-China alliance may not lead to a fully-fledged future alliance, potentially due to China's own missteps, or due to opponents' active measures to arrest the relationship," it said.
One pivotal finding of the report highlights that during the year 2015, a decline in China-Pakistan relationship was observed.
However, the same year, the visit of President Xi Jinping to Islamabad, introduction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a flagship project and announcement of sale of eight submarines to Pakistan, negated the previous observations.
"Now, in less than a decade, the China-Pakistan military relationship has advanced from an episodic partnership to a threshold alliance," the USIP report maintained.
Currently, Pakistan's major defence equipment is increasingly sourced from China, especially the power projection and higher-end combat strike capabilities. And in the process, Pakistan continues to let go of older US and European origin platforms.
While the report expresses its observations on US's concerns over the threshold alliance between Pakistan and China, it highlights that much more is needed for a fully-fledged alliance, which would include Beijing granting Islamabad more military aid and access to sensitive systems such as J-20 stealth fighter or nuclear-powered attack submarines.
"A final signal might be the Chinese Navy deploying maritime reconnaissance assets in Gwadar," the report stated.
While the coziness between Pakistan and China seems pretty open in the public eye; both sides have categorically denied that Pakistan may be drifting into Beijing's camp.
"Both sides have explicitly denied that Pakistan is drifting into Beijing's camp and have eschewed pressures forcing them to choose between relations with China and the West," the report maintained.
But there are many factors that may play a role in reverse trajectory to the Pakistan-China military relationship and may cause friction on the bilateral political front as well.
This includes China's treatment of the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim minority in Xinjiang province, a topic which has been debated globally and also a point on which, Pakistan's political leadership has struggled every time it has been asked to give its point of view.
Another big factor is the fact that Beijing may not continue rescuing Pakistan from its shortcomings on the economic front by injecting money into its economy or pursuing economic and military investment in Iran at Pakistan's expense.
This will also play a role in weariness of China and may force it to think twice before injecting any more investments, financial bailout support or military investments into Pakistan.