Military diplomacy can be defined as a pattern of initiatives built on the application of negotiations and other diplomatic maneuvers that are primarily carried out by representatives of the defense department as well as other state institutions, with the goal of pursuing foreign policy objectives of the country to ensure successful realization of national security and defense policy.
China and Pakistan have a long-standing history of unwavering strategic alliance and mutual defense cooperation. Their partnership is largely characterized by shared values, interests, and regional perspectives.
The military relationship between Pakistan and China has developed over a period of decades and now covers a wide range of fields, including defense and security, information sharing, joint military drills, technology transfer, and weapons sales. Both nations have reaffirmed their commitment to advancing defense ties and enhancing their military cooperation. Their shared understanding of the threat that India poses to the region is one of the main drivers of Pakistan and China’s military cooperation. In order to offset India’s hostile designs for gaining regional dominance, both nations have unified their strategic objectives to provide a joint extended front to the mutual adversary.
Recently, General Syed Asim Munir, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) met with Chinese General Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), the military’s supreme command under President Xi Jinping. Both senior military leaders discussed shared security concerns and prospects for expanding military cooperation.
During the meeting, General Asim Munir was assured by a Chinese defense official that China prioritizes Pakistan in its regional diplomacy and strongly encourages Pakistan in preserving its right to sovereignty, the integrity of the land, development interests, and national honor. The all-weather friendship will persist despite Islamabad’s current economic crisis.
According to General Zhang, the two nations’ enduring relationship and mutual trust, which are as rock-solid as they are, are crucial components of regional and even global peace, stability, and prosperity. General Zhang continued, “The Chinese military is willing to cooperate with the Pakistani military to further strengthen and broaden possible cooperation, periodically lift the military-to-military interactions to greater heights, and jointly protect the common interests of the two nations as well as the peace and stability of the region”. He made an allusion to the new era that began in 2012 when President Xi assumed office and declared that China is eager to forge a stronger China-Pakistan community based on a joint destiny.
According to General Asim Munir, Pakistan will steadfastly defend China’s fundamental interests with regard to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea regardless of how the global and regional situation evolves- a global endorsement of China as Pakistan’s iron brother.
Since taking over as commander of the Pakistan Army in November 2022, General Munir has traveled to four different foreign countries. In January, he made his first official foreign visit since his appointment, traveling to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A month later, at the invitation of the British Ministry of Defence, he traveled to the UK for a crucial visit to discuss security-related strategic concerns.
Pakistan’s military diplomacy under General Asim Munir has entered a new era of strategic success with the latest, now globally famous, China visit.
In Pakistan, defense diplomacy has mostly assisted state institutions in accomplishing national goals by providing economic anchoring. One of the prime examples could be taken from international cricket matches in Pakistan. It appeared that Pakistan will not be able to host international-level cricket matches anytime soon despite all necessary measures in place to maintain a secure and peaceful environment in the country. By engaging army squads from Australia, England, and Sri Lanka to participate in cricket, the occasion shifted perceptions internationally and gave international teams confidence. This tactic of preemptive defense diplomacy made it possible for international cricket to make a comeback in Pakistan.
By utilizing the soft power tools at the military’s disposal, despite having a great potential in hard power capability- the Pakistan army is expanding its footprint in the international diplomatic realm, thus, is assisting the nation to grow rapidly at different international forums. The recent Joint China-Pakistan display of fraternity and commitment to a weather defense partnership has become a testament to the Pakistan military’s strategic capability in the diplomatic domain.
The author is currently working as visiting faculty at International Islamic University Islamabad. She regularly writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.