China on Thursday vowed to deepen maritime security, anti-terrorism, security and military cooperation with Pakistan. Between India, Iran and Saudi Arabia, we need an outside ally. The US has flaked on us countless times. The Saudis fund only the wrong things and now with the crisis in Yemen they want our boots to be in the line of fire since they don’t have much military experience. We need China.

Why not? What else do we have going for us? We are in debt to Iran, over a pipeline project that we have no funds for. Any deal with them opens us to international sanctions and Saudi ire. Afghanistan could have been our link, but they really can’t be trusted, and neither do they trust us.

China together with Pakistan is pushing for the construction of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor within the construct of China’s “Belt and Road” initiatives. With the PML-N’s affinity for roads, this may well be possible. We must be pragmatic now, and let it happen. The corridor will link us to Central Asian trade, which we need for our gas and energy needs. It will build our railways and road networks and make Gwadar a real international port. The Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif after one of his Beijing trips has stated that Pakistani development will have a “Chinese touch.” Though the government is being optimistic, the touch will be heavier than expected, however, China is secular, it offers trade and infrastructure, and it balances India. In the corridor, China gets economic expansion, more markets and Indian containment. Imagine what this could mean for Kashmir when there are nearby Chinese roads at risk when India aggresses? The deals are sound from a security perspective and we already are the largest importer of Chinese arms in the world.

What has to be made sure of is that the economy benefits from trade. We have core competencies in small and medium enterprises, cottage industries, cotton manufacture, and Pakistan has just secured a Chinese order for 1,500 tons rice. There could be more orders. We have to manipulate the situation so that we benefit, so that the Chinese touch does not turn into a Chinese invasion.