‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ goes the popular saying. Even as the cash-strapped Pakistan managed to repay one third of the $3 billion loan that it received from Saudi Arabia in 2018, the latter has not yet renewed its agreement with the Imran Khan government to supply oil.
The part repayment and a possible default on international debt obligation has been possible only with the aid of China. Foreign affairs analysts said that this should be a lesson for Pakistan that nothing comes “free.”
“Pakistan's time-tested friend, China, has immediately come forward and extended $1 billion in loan to help Islamabad avoid any adverse impact of the partial withdrawal of the Saudi lifeline,” the Express Tribune said quoting sources in the Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The move has particularly dampened the Khan government’s sentiments as Islamabad has been seeking a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—the world’s largest Islamic countries bloc—has repeatedly declined Islamabad’s several requests to hold a meeting on Kashmir. Until recently, Saudi Arabia has been one of the strongest allies of Islamabad.
But in diplomacy there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. The move also underscores another critical facet—that in the new world order, economy and markets drive policies and alliances.
“There is always a clear agenda for governments when they come to each other’s rescue and this is clear from the way China has been expanding its wings and command within the country [Pakistan],” the analyst who refused to be identified told IN.
China has become Pakistan’ most important donor. “Pakistan’s desire to maintain strategic relations with China has resulted in the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a set of infrastructure projects, being mired in insufficient transparency,” an article published by The Diplomat said.
“For Pakistan’s citizens, who are always told how China is their most reliable friend in the world, it was a shock to discover that China does business mercilessly and unscrupulously. Successive civilian governments and Pakistan’s military have looked upon China as their principal backer against India,” the article further added.
Many insiders within Pakistan have warned Islamabad about China’s ambitions. As Chinese influence over their territory expands, discontent among a large section of the Pakistanis is only increasing against the dragon.
The Chinese have also refrained from integrating with the society. “The Chinese there maintain their unique identity which often does not go down well with the locals,” the analyst said..