China planning military base in Pakistan; reveals Pentagon, denies Islamabad

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Nation special report

WASHINGTON: US Pentagon has revealed Thursday (May 2) in its annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments that Beijing planning to create a Chinese Military Base in Pakistan. “The United States suspects that Beijing will develop a Chinese Military Base not only in Pakistan but across the world to protect its investments in its ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) infrastructure program.

Beijing presently has just one overseas military base in Djibouti but is understood ambitions to develop more, including in Pakistan, as it attempts to project itself as a global superpower”, the report mentioned.

But Pakistan has refuted the report and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday rejected this report that claims China was looking to build a military base in Pakistan to protect its $62 billion infrastructure investments under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

During a media talk on Saturday, Qureshi rubbished the report’s claims, and said, “China is our friend playing a role in Pakistan’s economic prosperity.” He added that news of a military base was propaganda spread by Pakistan’s enemies including India.

Qureshi said the One Belt One Road was a program for economic cooperation.
“It’s a program for regional connectivity. It’s a program for development. It’s a program for poverty alleviation,” he said and declined commenting further when asked if China could maintain a military presence in Pakistan under the CPEC agreement between Islamabad and Beijing.

The 136-page Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments which was released on Thursday claims that China will “probably drive military overseas” to protect its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to revive the historical silk route that stretched from China to Italy and passed through Pakistan.

According to the report, “China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries.”

The envisaged corridor is more than 3000 km long and will be built over the next few years consisting of highways, railways and pipelines that are expected to modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its ailing economy.

It is widely believed China’s Belt and Road Initiative includes the deployment of Chinese military installations of which currently it has only one in Djibouti.
“China’s leaders are leveraging China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional pre-eminence and expand the country’s international influence,” the report said.

 “China’s advancement of projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative (OBOR) will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects,” the Pentagon report said.

 “China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.

That effort could be constrained by other countries’ wariness of hosting a full-time presence of the People’s Liberation Army, the report noted. But target locations for military basing could include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific. China has already established well-armed outposts on contested atolls it build up in the South China Sea. Last year, there were reportedly discussions on a base in the Wakhan corridor of northwest Afghanistan.

In addition, The Washington Post recently identified an outpost hosting many Chinese troops in eastern Tajikistan, near the strategic junction of the Wakhan Corridor, China, and Pakistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to project the country’s power beyond its immediate “back yard” in East and Southeast Asia. This includes strengthening the country’s presence in international institutions, acquiring top-flight technology and establishing a strong economic presence worldwide.

It also includes projecting the country’s military force on the land, sea and in space, the report notes. “China’s leaders are leveraging China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional pre-eminence and expand the country’s international influence,” the report said.

Beijing in particular increasingly sees the United States as becoming more confrontational in an effort to contain China’s expanding power, it said.

Beijing, meanwhile, has taken note of a growing suspicion in many countries of the One Belt One Road program and has toned down its aggressive rhetoric in response. Nevertheless, the Pentagon said Beijing’s leadership has not altered its fundamental strategic goals.

Chinese strategy

According to Pentagon report, China’s leaders have benefited from what they view as a “period of strategic opportunity” during the initial two decades of the 21st
century to develop domestically and expand China’s “comprehensive national power.”

Over the coming decades, they are focused on realizing a powerful and prosperous China that is equipped with a “world-class” military, securing China’s status as a great power with the aim of emerging as the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific region.

In 2018, China continued harnessing an array of economic, foreign policy, and security tools to realize this vision. Ongoing state-led efforts, which China implements both at home and abroad and which often feature economic and diplomatic initiatives, also support China’s security and military objectives:

China continues to implement long-term state-directed planning, such as “Made in China 2025” and other industrial development plans, which stress the need
to replace imported technology with domestically produced technology. These plans present an economic challenge to nations that export high-tech products. These plans also directly support military modernization goals by stressing proprietary mastery of advanced dual-use technologies.

China’s leaders seek to align civil and defense technology development to achieve greater efficiency, innovation, and growth. In recent years, China’s leaders elevated this initiative, known as Civil-Military Integration (CMI), to a national strategy that incentivizes the civilian sector to enter the defense market. The national CMI strategy focuses on hardware modernization, education, personnel, investment, infrastructure, and logistics.

China’s leaders are leveraging China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country’s international influence. China’s advancement of projects such as the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative (OBOR) will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects.

China conducts influence operations against media, cultural, business, academic, and policy communities of the United States, other countries, and international institutions to achieve outcomes favorable to its security and military strategy objectives. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to condition foreign and multilateral political establishments and public opinion to accept China’s narrative surrounding its priorities like OBOR and South China Sea territorial and maritime claims.

Recognizing that programs such as “Made in China 2025” and OBOR have sparked concerns about China’s intentions, China’s leaders have softened their rhetoric when promoting these programs without altering the programs’ fundamental strategic goals.