Chinese state media celebrated the victory of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan in an editorial Monday, claiming the two countries’ relationship of “iron brothers” will “flourish” under his leadership.
In an editorial in the state newspaper Global Times, author Aftab Hussain points to Imran Khan’s praise for China’s poverty alleviation program and his support for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor established in 2015 as part of China’s global One Belt, One Road (OBOR) infrastructure project.
Pakistan is a key connecting piece in OBOR, a plan that sees China building the world’s most important roads, ports, and railways through giving developing countries predatory loans, such that the infrastructure projects ultimately return to Chinese control.
“Khan has hinted at the outline of the foreign policy of the country,” the editorial states. “He expressed his desire to have friendly ties with all neighboring countries and invited India to peace talks. Recognizing the importance of ties between Islamabad and Beijing, he appreciated China’s poverty alleviation program and expressed the desire to learn from it in order to reduce the gap between rich and poor in Pakistan.”
China has historically been a close ally of Pakistan, although the relationship has been strained in recent years by the threat of jihadi groups. Khan ran on a campaign of improving relations with both China and India by promising to resolve tensions over the disputed Kashmir region.
“Imran himself on a number of occasions has expressed the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China,” the newspaper notes. “The only country mentioned in his party manifesto is China, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been referred to as a game changer in the region. Imran wants local businessmen to gain from this opportunity.”
“Under Khan’s leadership, ties with China will flourish,” it continues. “The CPEC is an already agreed-upon project and is beyond party politics and biases. Construction of the CPEC will continue unhindered as all parties agree over its importance.”
In recent months, Pakistan’s relationship with the United States has been under threat over a number of diplomatic disputes that include the Trump administration pulling $1 billion in foreign aid, suggesting that Islamabad did not use that money for its intended purpose of combatting radical Islamic groups. As such, China has moved to strengthen relations through goodwill gestures that include the construction of a gleaming new port in the southern city of Gwadar.
The op-ed concludes by stating that all three major political parties in Khan’s coalition support the CPEC and closer ties to China as a method of improving economic growth and increasing regional stability.
“All three major political parties have consensus on the CPEC and improvement of ties with China, as relations between Beijing and Islamabad have transcended conventional diplomatic relations and the countries have turned into, as described by Chinese leaders, ‘iron brothers.'”
“It is hoped that despite political differences, all the parties will help Khan make Pakistan a developed, liberal and progressive country,” it concludes.