October 26, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4228

Pakistani Journalist: China Seeking to Establish Military Bases in Pakistani Border Region; Chinese Troops Were Part of Pakistani Army Exercise along India Border

October 26, 2011
Pakistan, , China | Special Dispatch No. 4228

China has proposed to establish military bases abroad

In a recent article, renowned Pakistani journalist Amir Mir made startling disclosures that China is seeking to establish military bases in the Pakistani border region along Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are deployed. These Chinese military bases could be established in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) or in Gilgit Baltistan, a region that borders China and has traditionally been considered as part of Jammu & Kashmir.

Amir Mir, who is an author of several books on militancy in Pakistan, also noted that the Chinese first want to establish these military bases, giving a lower priority to the Pakistani request to take over the strategically important Gwadar port. The Gwadar port on the Baluchistan coast seeks to undermine Indian naval dominance in the region. In his article, Amir Mir also revealed that Chinese troops also took part in a Pakistani military exercise which was held along the Indian border in August.

These revelations are likely to heighten the tension between India and Pakistan, as several Indian military leaders have warned in the recent past that Pakistan and China pose a joint threat to the security of India. Indian Army chief V.K. Singh has said that around 4,000 Chinese, including soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), are present in Pakistani Kashmir.

Following are excerpts from the report:[1]

"Pakistan Wants China to Build a Naval Base at… Gwadar in Baluchistan; Beijing is More Interested in Setting Up Military Bases Either in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] or the Northern Areas [Gilgit Baltistan]"

"While Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at its southwestern seaport of Gwadar in Baluchistan, Beijing is more interested in setting up military bases either in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] or the Northern Areas [Gilgit Baltistan], which are closer to the troubled Chinese province of Xinjiang.

"According to well-informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the Chinese desire is meant to contain the growing terrorist activities of the Chinese rebels belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The Chinese Muslim rebels want the creation of an independent Islamic state and are allegedly being trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"Beijing's wish for a military presence in Pakistan was discussed at length by the political and military leadership of both the countries in recent months, as China has become ever more concerned about the Pakistani tribal areas as a haven for radicals.

"Beijing believes that similar to the American military presence in Pakistan, a Chinese presence would enable its military to effectively counter the Muslim separatists who have been operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost a decade and carrying out cross-border terrorist activities in the trouble-stricken Xinjiang Province.

"There were three high-profile visits from Pakistan to China in recent months: the first by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar; then by President Asif Zardari, followed by DG ISI [Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence] Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

"The Pakistani visits were reciprocated by the September 28, 2011 visits to Islamabad by the Chinese Vice Premier Meng Jianzhu and the Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu. These visits were actually prompted by the two bomb blasts in the Kashgar city of the Xinjiang province on July 30 and 31, 2011…. The explosions provoked some senior government officials in Xinjiang to publicly claim for the first time in recent years that the attackers had been trained in explosives in the ETIM camps which are being run by the Chinese Muslim separatists in the Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan."

Pakistani Defense Minister: China is "More Than Happy to Oblige [Pakistan], Including Agreeing to Take Over Operation of the Strategically Positioned… Port of Gwadar"

"Beijing believes that the Chinese rebels operating from the Pakistani tribal areas are well connected to Al-Qaeda, which not only trains them but also provides funding. Therefore, Pakistan and China, which have been cooperating for a long time in the field of counter terrorism, have intensified their efforts to nip the evil of terrorism in the bud, especially after the Kashgar blasts.

"In fact, it was in the aftermath of the May 2 U.S. raid [which had killed Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout] that Islamabad started playing its China card aggressively, perhaps to caution Washington against pushing it too hard. Shortly after the raid, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani traveled to Beijing.

"The accompanying Defense Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, had stated on May 21, 2011 that whatever requests for assistance the Pakistani side made, the Chinese government was more than happy to oblige, including agreeing to take over operation of the strategically positioned but underused port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea upon expiry of a contract with a Singaporean government company.

"He disclosed that Pakistan had asked China to begin building a naval base at Gwadar, where Beijing funded and built the port. 'We would be grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan,' he said in a statement."

"Diplomatic Circles in Islamabad Say Beijing… First Wants to Establish Military Bases in Pakistan that could Be Followed By the Setting Up of the Naval Base"

"Knowledgeable defense ministry sources in Islamabad say [that] by having a Chinese naval base in the Gwadar area, Pakistan intends to counterbalance the Indian naval forces. However, diplomatic circles in Islamabad say Beijing, which has no military bases until now outside its territory and has often been vocal in criticizing the American moves for operating such bases, first wants to establish military bases in Pakistan that could be followed by the setting up of the naval base.

"Therefore, the Chinese National Defense Minister Liang Guanglie had promptly dismissed on June 6, 2011 suggestions that Beijing was carving out a permanent naval presence in India’s neighborhood in South Asia. Answering questions at the 10th Asia Security Summit, General Liang disclaimed move to build naval bases at Gwadar in Pakistan and at a Sri Lankan port….

"Analysts say although it might not be politically feasible for the Pakistani government to openly allow China to set up military bases on its soil, Islamabad might allow Beijing the use of its military facilities without any public announcement, as a first step. They say China's deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and the joint plans to set up not only new oil pipelines and railroads, but also naval and military bases, are enough to set alarm bells ringing in Delhi and Washington.

"But analysts say the repercussions of the growing Pak-China strategic nexus are particularly stark for India because both Beijing and Islamabad refuse to accept the territorial status quo and lay claim to large tracts of the Indian land, which could come under the Chinese sway once Beijing is allowed to establish military bases in Pakistan."

Official Chinese Website: "Setting up Overseas Military Bases is Not an Idea We have to Shun; It is Our Right; It is Baseless to Say That We will Not Set Up Any Military Bases"

Following are excerpts from another version of this article, published on the Hong Kong-based website[2]

"The Chinese desire to have military bases in Pakistan is not a new one and has been discussed in the past.

"An article published on the official website of the Chinese central government ( on January 28, 2010, signaled that Beijing wanted to go the U.S. way and set up military bases in overseas locations that would possibly include Pakistan. The obvious purpose would be to exert pressure on India as well as counter American influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"The article stated: 'Setting up overseas military bases is not an idea we have to shun; on the contrary, it is our right. It is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad. As for the military aspect, we should be able to conduct a retaliatory attack within the country or at the neighboring area of our potential enemies. We should also be able to put pressure on the overseas interests of potential enemies. With further development, China will be in great demand of military protection.'

"Analysts say although it might not be politically feasible for the Pakistani government to openly allow China to set up military bases on its soil, Islamabad might allow Beijing the use of its military facilities without any public announcement as a first step."

"The Chinese Demand to Set Up Military Bases in Pakistan has Gained Momentum…"

"The Chinese demand to set up military bases in Pakistan has gained momentum at a time when the Indian military leadership is already raising a hue and cry over the alleged presence of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir as well as in the FANA [Federally Administered Northern Areas], which was earlier called Gilgit- Baltistan.

"In August 2009, the Pakistan government passed the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order to grant self-rule to the people of the area and create an elected legislative assembly. Gilgit-Baltistan thus gained de facto province-like status without doing so constitutionally.

"Gilgit Baltistan province borders Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the west, Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to the north, China to the east and northeast, Pakistan-administered Kashmir to the southwest, and Jammu Kashmir to the southeast."

Indian Army Chief: "Around 4,000 Chinese, Including Troops of the People's Liberation Army, are Present in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir"

"Although the supposed Chinese military presence in Pakistan's northern areas of Gilgit Baltistan has been a matter of intense speculation in India, it was on October 5 that Indian Army Chief General V. K. Singh went public for the first time with the Indian establishment's assessment of the kind of Chinese presence in the northern areas of Pakistan. 'Around 4,000 Chinese including troops of the People's Liberation Army are present in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,' Singh told journalists in New Delhi.

"However, senior Foreign Office officials of Xinjiang told this writer during a briefing in Urumqi, the capital of the province, that the Indian Army chief's claim was fallacious and must be based on some misunderstanding.

"Despite the fact that diplomatic ties between China and India have improved in recent years, they are still at odds over territorial claims from both countries dating back to the India-China border war in 1962.

"While India and Pakistan control Pakistan-administered Kashmir (Azad) and Jammu Kashmir states respectively, China claims part of northeastern Kashmir that it says is a part of Tibet. Therefore, Beijing is highly critical of India's support for the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a government in exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala."

Indian Army's Northern Commander Lieutenant General K. T. Parnaik: '"The Chinese Presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Northern Areas of Pakistan is Increasing Steadily"

"The Indian army chief was not the first senior military official to have talked about the alleged Chinese presence in the northern areas of Pakistan.

"In April this year, [Indian Army's] Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General K. T. Parnaik, while addressing a seminar in Jammu and Kashmir, said that the Chinese footprint in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was increasing steadily and its troops were actually present along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Kashmir area. 'The Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the northern areas of Pakistan is increasing steadily. There are many who are concerned about the fact that if there was to be hostility between India and Pakistan, what would be the complicity of the Chinese. Not only are they in the neighborhood, but the fact is that they are actually present and stationed along the LoC,' Parnaik said.

"Zhang Xiaodi, the director general of the foreign affairs office in Urumqi, told this writer in a meeting on October 10 that there is no truth in the allegations leveled by Indian military officials. [He said,] 'There are only Chinese construction teams working in the northern areas of Pakistan on certain development projects being carried out by Pakistan and China jointly. The presence of People's Liberation Army troops there is out of question.'"

"[Pakistan Took a] Decision to Include for the First Time Chinese Troops in Military Exercises Along the Border with the Indian States of Punjab and Rajasthan"

"At the same time, there are those in the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing who view the Indian Army chief's allegation against the backdrop of the Pakistan Army's recent decision to include for the first time Chinese troops in military exercises along the border with the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan; the 101 Engineering Regiment of the PLA took part in exercises with their Pakistani counterparts in August this year.

"Analysts say China's deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and the joint plans to set up not only new oil pipelines and railroads but also naval and military bases, are enough to set alarm bells ringing in New Delhi and Washington. The repercussions are particularly stark for India because both Beijing and Islamabad refuse to accept the territorial status quo and lay claim to large tracts of Indian land that could come under Chinese sway once Beijing is allowed to establish military bases in Pakistan.

"The fact that Gilgit and Baltistan is located in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir presents India with a two-front theater in the event of a war with either country. By deploying troops near the LoC and playing the Kashmir card against New Delhi, Beijing is clearly signaling that Kashmir is where the Sino-Pakistan nexus can squeeze India."


[1] The News (Pakistan), October 26, 2011. The text of the reports in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity.

[2] (Hong Kong), October 26, 2011.

Share this Report: