Recovering from its worst flood in 80 years, Pakistan is facingâ€”among aÂ laundry list of woesâ€”gas shortages, food and water scarcity, agricultural losses, infrastructural damage, and a significant population of displaced persons. The calamities left by the deluge exacerbate Pakistanâ€™s fragile political-security environment, allowing regions and actors (such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban) beyond government control to thrive and expand, while security loopholes in Pakistanâ€™s judicial and law enforcement system undermine effective responses.
As international relief contributions pour into Islamabad, China has dispatched rescue teams andÂ four military rescue helicoptersÂ and pledgedÂ donations totaling USD$250 million. While Chinaâ€™s support wasÂ positively received by both the Pakistani populationÂ andÂ officials, underlying Beijingâ€™s aid is concern for Pakistanâ€™s steadily declining situation. The recent natural disaster complicates Pakistanâ€™s security efforts in militant safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that lie close to the China-Pakistan border.
Chinaâ€™s longstanding concern about the destabilizing effect of Pakistanâ€™s militant insurgents on radical Muslims in Xinjiang has led to joint counterterrorism efforts. This July, the two countries completed their third joint military exercise, codenamed Sino-Pak Friendship 2010, which included counterterrorism drills to enhance interoperability.
While China is ostensibly a close partner in counterterrorism, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari hints that ChinaÂ could do moreÂ to stabilize the country and help recover its losses, including expanding military cooperation and investment. One possibility is to enhance cross-military, police, and counterinsurgency training initiatives. China could also support capacity building and supervise the effective allocation of aid funding. It is uncertain to what extent Chinese are ensuring the distribution of funds to the organizations and people with greatest need. Going forward, both countries must address the rampant corruption and the lack of accountability in Pakistanâ€™s security and government apparatuses to improve both the image and implementation of Chinese support for Pakistan.
Prior to the floods, China has also invested heavily in infrastructure such as nuclear power projects,Â hydropower dams, gold and copper mines, telecommunications, highways and railways, and defense production. Continued Chinese investment is vital toÂ easing economic burdens,Â restoring order, and preventing future environmental destruction. It is especiallyÂ helpful in FATA, where efforts can undermine Taliban recruitment efforts and provideÂ employment opportunities for local citizens. China also welcomes the opportunity to expand its strategic access in South Asia and the Persian Gulf through these incentives.
In addition to robust military cooperation, China has dedicated resources providing humanitarian relief and infrastructure rebuilding efforts in Pakistan. While the relationship will face challenges, recent bilateral developments and the number of high-level bilateral visits this yearâ€”including President Zardariâ€™sÂ recent visit to ChinaÂ for the Asian Games and the planned visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to Pakistan this Decemberâ€”are compelling evidence to a durable Sino-Pakistan relationship for the foreseeable future.