Just recently New Delhi and Beijing were exchanging accusations over border violations by China in the Ladakh region However both sides were careful to try and avoid an outright confrontation. India’s border dispute led to a brief war between these two neighbors in the early 1960’s and differences have remained on the clear demarcation of the long Himalayan frontier. However significant developments in the South China Sea has perhaps prompted China to mend her fences with its neighbour to the West. China’s ongoing row in the South China sea over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and her rapid expansion of her naval fighting capability with more modern frigates and destroyers the inclusion of her first aircraft carrier bought from Russia to boost her maritime reach . As such it made perfect sense to normalize relations with India and to fast track communications links with Pakistan.
Just a few ago China helped Pakistan build the Gawadar port situated along the Arabian Sea coastline and close to the mouth of the straits of Hormuz at a cost of around 300 million dollars. The port was however handed over to Singapore port Authority by the former military ruler Retd General Pervez Musharraf because was reluctant to annoy the Americans by handing over direct control to the Chinese. However the gradual erosion of trust between the US and Pakistan over Afghanistan and ongoing CIA operated Drone strikes prompted the Pakistani Government to hand over control to the Chinese. With growing Chinese interests in Africa, Gawadar provided opportunities for a major trade corridor also the shortest land route to Western China. The other route would entail a much longer shipping link that would pass through the straits of Malacca and take a much longer and costlier route. China was very keen to maintain a growing presence in the Arabian sea to help with its anti piracy operations of the coast of Yemen and Somalia so as to guarantee safe passage in that troubled region and secure this vital trade route between Africa and China linked through Gawadar in Pakistan.
As such the Chinese premier Li Keqiang visit to Pakistan was thus essentially the first major step in identifying the importance of Pakistan as a major strategic conduit for trade. The Chinese were expected to link the Gawadar port to a raillink and build a new Airport . The rail link would ultimately travel along the Karakorum Highway or KKH ,the country’s existing land link to China over the Karakorum mountains.
Geo Strategic links
During premier Li visit to Pakistan also signed a deal on the Chinese satellite navigation system The Beidou, or Compass China's domestic satellite navigation system which was launched as a rival to the US global positioning system. Pakistan's armed forces was reluctant to depend y on US GPS because of its questionable availability during a conflict. The two countries were also cooperating on the joint production of the 4th generation fighter bomber the JF 17 thunder which was also on offer to other countries as a cheaper alternative to other fighters on sale in the international market and there were reports of Pakistani interest in the state of art J 21 and the J10 5th generation aircraft fighter from China. The country also recently bought frigates from China and was considering Chinese submarines to beef up its existing fleet. China also helped Pakistan with the production of main battle tanks and cooperation between these two key allies was growing rapidly.
The visit of the new Chinese premier came at a time when Nawaz Shareef was set to be the country’s Prime Minister. The Chinese premier held a one on one meeting with him to discuss important issues and Nawaz is said to have asked for civilian nuclear technology to overcome its acute power shortages. For Pakistan the visit could not have come at a better time. China wanted to send a positive signal to New Dehli that it has no hegemonic designs in the area. If New delhi was equally receptive then it would also go a long way in the ongoing raproachment between India and Pakistan.