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8 July 2020, Gateway House

Pakistan – between COVID and China

Tilak Devasher, Member, National Security Advisory Board was in conversation with Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director, Gateway House. The discussion centered around Pakistan's management of COVID-19 and its relations with China.

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The discussion addressed the issue of Pakistan – between COVID and China.

In this Webcast, which was recorded earlier this week (July 2), the speakers highlight six main points:

a) Pakistan has not played a big role in India’s border tensions along the LAC with China. The Chinese believe that they are capable of handling this on their own. The Pakistani military doesn’t have a major influence over the Chinese PLA.

b) COVID-19 has been mismanaged by the Pakistani government. This has added strain to the already impoverished healthcare infrastructure. There is under testing and under reporting of cases and deaths respectively. The WHO and the China have warned Pakistan to be aggressive in their testing

c) Pakistan’s overall military budget along with their loans, exceed Pakistan’s revenue. Pakistan has to borrow to run the country. Despite this, the military budget went up by 12% and the development budget is less than 50% of the army budget.

d) The best thing going for Pakistan has been its geographical position. Since 1947, it has been able to leverage this first with the British, then with the Americans, and now with the Chinese. Since Pakistan is a nuclear power, it is in the interest of all the major powers to not let it sink, however, it could continue to keep stumbling. This could be one of the reasons that Pakistan continues to be on the FATF grey list.

e) There is a rift in the Islamic world but not because of China. It is largely because  the leaders of Pakistan, Turkey, and Malaysia want to have a more dominant voice in the in the Islamic world and edge out Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E

f) As Pakistan has leveraged their geography, India can do the same. India is leveraging its position in the Indian Ocean as a strong maritime power. Historically, India has always been continental and land power, and it is only now that the maritime domain has started becoming important.