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Are ties between 'best friends' Pak-China souring?

Last updated on: May 27, 2011 15:12 IST

Are ties between 'best friends' Pak-China souring?

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Pakistan and China are disagreeing over whether Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has given the Chinese a gift, an entire naval base at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

The New York Times described this as a "bump" in relations between the two "best friends". Gilani has previously said that the two friends "are like one nation and two countries".

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Image: Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with China's Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing
Photographs: Jason Lee/Reuters
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Pak-China disagree over Gilani's 'gift'

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We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar," Paksitan's Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtat, told journalists, last week.

This week, however, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said there was no such deal. "Regarding the specific China-Pakistan cooperative project that you raised, I have not heard of it. It's my understanding that during the visit last week this issue was not touched upon," she said.

 


Image: Pakistan flag flies alongside a Chinese flag in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong on Beijing's Tiananmen Square
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters
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A message to US: Islamabad has other friends

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The Times spoke to experts who tried to explain the discrepancy. "Maybe there were some discussions between the two sides when Gilani was up in China last week, bearing on some kind of future Chinese stewardship of the port," said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.

"Maybe there was some speculative discussion. Perhaps the defence ministry simply got its signals wrong," he said.

Other experts pointed out that Pakistan's announcement may have been an attempt to send a message to Washington that Islamabad had other friends and options. Relations between Islamabad and Washington have further deteriorated after a raid by United States Navy SEALs killed terror mastermind Osama bin Laden in the Abbottabad.

Image: Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami hold a banner during an anti-American rally through the streets of Karachi protesting Osama bin Laden's death
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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