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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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China Planning To Build Military Bases In Pakistan; Seeks Permission For Stationing Fighter Jets At Gwadar Airport

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Having made significant investments in the conflict-prone Pakistan-Afghanistan region as part of its hugely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, China is planning to protect its interests in the two countries by stationing its own forces in specially created outposts, according to top diplomatic sources.

As it is keen to expand its influence to central Asia through the Pakistan-Afghanistan route, China has made significant investments in the region.

Pakistan, where estimated Chinese investments have risen above $60 billion, is largely dependent on China not only for financial but also military and diplomatic support. Given this situation, China is pressuring Pakistan to allow it to build outposts where it can possibly station its military personnel.

Afghanistan, which is ruled by the Taliban, however, is yet to meet the expectations of both China as well as Pakistan on many counts.

Top diplomatic and security sources in Islamabad who requested anonymity for this report, believe that China’s People Liberation Army is working at a war scale to establish military outposts in Afghanistan and Pakistan for what it claims would be smoother operations and expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), reported ANI, an Indian news agency.

According to diplomatic sources, the Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong has held meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto and Chief of Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa with regards to the issue.

Ambassador Rong recently arrived in Pakistan. His demands including the creation of outposts for Chinese forces was reiterated during his meeting with the new government and state representatives.

The Chinese ambassador has been continuously insisting on the security of Chinese projects and the safety of its citizens, the source informed.

China has already demanded outposts in Gwadar and has asked for permission to use the Gwadar International Airport for its fighter jets.

Gwadar Airport
Gwadar International Airport

The issue is sensitive as the people of Pakistan may not want a foreign presence in their country. People fear that the country is already in a debt-trap-like situation and that Chinese tactics could leave it no better than a colony.

Both Pakistan and China have their own concerns in Afghanistan. They were expecting unquestioned cooperation in the land-locked nation but have been rebuffed.

Pakistan’s dilemma

Taliban and especially the groups affiliated to the Haqqanis were expected to facilitate the destruction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and hand over wanted militants to the Pakistani army. But Kandahar does not have a liking for Karachi and will not allow it to dictate terms.

The Haqqanis soon made it clear that they would not comply. The reason was that the Kandaharis and some of TTP leaders shared the same ancestral background. Left with no choice, the Pakistani army has had to engage in complex ceasefire talks with the TTP, reported ANI.

The new Afghan government was also supposed to recognise the Durand Line as an international border and even built an expensive wire fence. Yet, Taliban and TTP are constantly cutting the wires and laying claim to the FATA region of Pakistan.

China’s fears

China has its own problems in Afghanistan. The Taliban and Haqqanis do not seen to be interested in handing over Uyghur insurgents to the Chinese authorities.

China also considers them not serious about the development of its BRI network in Afghanistan. China wants access to central Asia and Europe through the CPEC and Afghanistan, the diplomatic source said.

China was keen to invest in Afghanistan and wants to expand its BRI project, so Beijing needs to secure Pakistan and Afghanistan with its military outposts, said the source.

China has constantly reminded Pakistan of its history of giving bases to America and other countries during the Cold War. Currently, China has heavily invested in Pakistan and the demand for the arrangement for the outposts and security is becoming serious as the clock ticks.

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