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China-Pakistan Parade: Is Beijing Sealing Role of Top Player in Asia-Pacific?

© REUTERS / Faisal MahmoodChinese troops march as they take part in Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017
Chinese troops march as they take part in Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Chinese troops took part in the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad for the first time earlier this week, in what some experts said was a sign of closer bilateral ties, while others pointed to Beijing's growing regional clout.

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In an unprecedented event on Thursday, 90 Chinese army servicemen took part in the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad, during which Pakistan showed off its long-range missiles, tanks and warplanes.

In an interview with Sputnik, Chinese military expert Song Xiaojun described similar military parades as "a barometer of the state of bilateral relations."

"These are normal exchanges between the armies of China and Pakistan. In practice, Beijing and Islamabad are strategic partners, and we can even say that they have excellent relations of strategic partnership. At the same time, both states are not military allies and they develop normal military contacts, including joint drills," Xiaojun said.

He was echoed by expert Peter Topychkanov of the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations, who pointed to close political, economic and military ties between Beijing and Islamabad.

© AFP 2021 / AAMIR QURESHIChinese troops march during a Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2017
Chinese troops march during a Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2017 - Sputnik International
Chinese troops march during a Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2017

"Therefore, there is no doubt that the two countries are interested in further developing this cooperation and want to demonstrate that they are closer to each other," Topychkanov said referring to the Islamabad parade.

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"Additionally, it can be perceived as Pakistan's message to its immediate neighbor India that China is on Islamabad's side and that Pakistan is poised to support Beijing," he added. 

On the other hand, Viktor Murakhovsky, Russian military expert and editor-in-chief of the Arsenal Otechestva magazine told the Russian online newspaper Vzglyad that he attributes the ongoing development of the Beijing-Islamabad military ties to the fact that China deems it necessary to cooperate with Pakistan in order to counter India and boost its regional clout.

"In fact, Beijing's alliance with Islamabad contributes to the consolidation of China's leading role in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, a chill in ties between Pakistan and the United States allowed China to occupy their niche, significantly strengthening its influence in Central Asia," Murakhovsky said.

In this context, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin recalled in an interview with Vzglyad that China is now actively discussing with Pakistan the possibility of opening its military bases on Pakistani territory.

"The economic corridor will allow the Chinese to have access to the Indian Ocean's coast, bypassing the Strait of Malacca, something that will allow Beijing to export goods from China's western regions via the shortest routes. In this regard, the question arises about China's presence on Pakistani territory," Kashin said.

According to Vzglyad, Washington is seriously concerned about the strengthening of the China-Pakistan alliance in the Asia-Pacific region.

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The growing Chinese clout in the Asia-Pacific and Central Asia, which comes against the backdrop of the US losing levels of influence on Islamabad, prompts the White House to rely more on India.

Vzglyad underscored that it is India which is seen by Washington as the main counterweight and deterrent of China the PRC. In this connection, the newspaper concluded, Washington continues to bolster its military cooperation with New Delhi.

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