IN one of the most symbolic acts of cooperation, Chinese and Pakistani soldiers have marched side by side in Islamabad to celebrate the day when Muslims started advocating for an independent state in British India.
The underrepresented Muslims wanted a homeland to protect themselves in the former British colony. On March 23, 1940, a resolution was passed that paved the way for modern Pakistan.
Chinese soldiers have maintained a presence in Pakistan in the past, but this is the first time the Chinese army, navy and air force took part in the annual celebrations. Saudi Arabia and Turkey also sent contingents.
The alliance between Beijing and Islamabad allows for undeniable influence in the volatile region. The two countries have seen heightened levels of military and economic cooperation in light of emerging security threats and, as such, Chinese soldiers marching with Pakistani soldiers sends a powerful message.
Throughout the parade, the Pakistan military showed off its impressive weaponry. Amidst skydiving Pakistani troops and impressive aerial displays by fighter jets, the Nasr missile was displayed, which has a 60-kilometre range and is able to carry nuclear weapons. The ballistic Shaheen-III missile was also flaunted, which experts say can strike anywhere in neighbouring India.
Pakistan has traditionally been allied with the United States, aiding the latter in its ‘war on terror’. But after years of working together to combat militancy in Afghanistan, the alleged links between Pakistan and Islamic militants operating in the region has made Pakistan an unreliable partner for the US.
Weakened ties with Washington has allowed Islamabad to diversify its relationships with new partners.
China has happily filled the gap of declined American influence. The alleged threat from neighbouring India has also pushed Pakistan into forging alliances with powerful allies that act as a bulwark to Indian influence.
President Mamnoon Hussain thanked China for sending 90 members of its People’s Liberation Army, noting that China never took part in similar events elsewhere.
Despite the show of bravado, Hussain said that Pakistan’s nuclear abilities safeguard regional peace, as opposed to fuelling instability. Amidst accusations that India violated a cease-fire in the divided Kashmir region, Hussain reiterated that Pakistan favours a diplomatic solution with India on every issue.
“India’s irresponsible attitude and consistent violations of Line of Control and Working Boundary have jeopardised peace of the region,” Hussain said. But more than words, the presence of Chinese troops acts as a bigger threat to India. After all, India currently has border disputes with both countries.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the day they achieved independence in 1947, but at least there is a clear line of communication between the two governments.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee sent a congratulatory message to Pakistan saying that India hopes to foster “ties with Pakistan in an environment free from terror and violence.”
The relationship has soured in recent years over alleged Pakistani support for militias that challenge Indian territorial control.
The relationship between Pakistan and China is only going to grow. According to Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defence and security analyst, “China has a special place in Pakistan. China is widely seen as a symbol of reliability, a true friend.”