The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has its foreign relations work cut out for it, especially when it comes to China.
Dr Ghulam Ali is the author of the book ‘China-Pakistan Relations: A Historical Analysis’ (OUP 2017). He specializes in China where he is an associate professor and has been teaching for the last four years. SAMAA Digital asked him to explain what the relations have been between the PTI and China.
According to him, China has maintained close relations with almost all of Pakistan’s political parties. But this much cannot be said of the PTI.
In 2013 Imran Khan went to China but aside from that there were no high-level interactions.
In the last few years, Chinese diplomats have engaged with PTI staff but this was relatively lower key than their interaction with say, the PPP, for example. In fact, Chinese relations with the PPP,
PML-N, and indeed the Pakistan Army are quite historic.
There are a few reasons why the PTI finds itself in this position, argues Dr Ghulam Ali.
1. The PTI has never been in the government in the centre, which would have naturally led to more interaction with the Chinese.
2. Imran Khan and the PTI have been focused on internal politics but this had an unexpected effect. In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan had to be put off because the PTI was staging its grand dharna against what it said was election rigging. The PML-N leadership portrayed this in Chinese circles as if Imran Khan and the PTI were lukewarm on the Chinese. It was presented as anti-China. President Xi Jinping came to Pakistan a year later.
3. Internal politics again created some inadvertent sourness when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa argued it wanted CPEC’s western route to pass through the province or it would not allow the projects.
Then the PTI expressed its concern over some CPEC agreements. The PTI’s stand concerned its opposition to decision-making by the PML-N; it was not necessarily against the Chinese themselves. But this was given an anti-China colour in some circles.
Will PTI’s government have an effect on CPEC? Dr Ghulam Ali thinks it will. It is a new government after all. It has a different vision. The new government will revise the big projects and assess them in light of its own priorities.