Pakistan and China
Courtesy: MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF
Celebrating a multi faceted and enduring friendship
The longstanding diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China established on 21 May 1951-in the wake of Mao Tse Tung’s take over – against the wishes of the western countries have withstood the test of time and grown into an enduring, multifaceted, deep-rooted friendship which would perhaps require a new diplomatic phrase to be described. Both the countries are celebrating 65th anniversary of relations between them this year – and rightly so.
This friendship is underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Close identity of views and mutuality of interests remains the hallmark of the bilateral ties. Despite the fact that Pakistan was a US ally, the development of relations with China has been the corner stone of its foreign policy. It was due to Pakistan’s alliance with US and strong ties with China that enabled it to facilitate the end of China’s isolation by orchestrating rapprochement between China and US. Pakistan has also been supporting China on all issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other sensitive matters such as human rights. The Chinese leaders do appreciate Pakistan’s steadfast and unqualified support on issues of Chinese concern.
“Infrastructure is the most important ingredient in kick starting the process of sustained economic growth in any country. Most of the Asian countries do not have the basic infrastructure to further their economic ambitions and they also lack the necessary resources to develop it.”
China has, over the years, supported the Kashmir cause and extended liberal economic and military assistance to Pakistan. When Pakistan was abandoned by its ally US during the 1965 war with India, China was there to help Pakistan as it did in each and every subsequent crisis. It has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of KKH Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila and Chashma Nuclear Plant are the monuments of the ever-spiking relationship. In the backdrop of US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regards as discriminatory act, China exhibited the strength of the friendship between the two countries by agreeing to build Chashma IV and V. The US raised objections on the cooperation in the nuclear field between Pakistan and China but the latter brushed aside the apprehensions by informing the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) during its meeting at Christchurch of its decision to build the two reactors. An arrangement for soft Chinese loan to fund the construction was also inked. Joint production of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft at Aeronautical Complex, Kamra was yet another monumental milestone of cooperation in the field of defence between the two nations.
The signing of agreements and MOUs between the two countries under CPEC during the visit of Chinese President His Excellency Xi Jin Ping last year, has surely been instrumental to exponential expansion in the bilateral relations between the two countries and elevated them to a new level of abiding strategic cooperation that holds the promise of not only serving the geo-political, economic and security interests of both of them but also the South Asian region as well as Central Asia.
Pakistan rightly feels proud of aligning itself with the new Chinese vision for regional connectivity and shared economic prosperity. It is an epoch making initiative necessitated by the phenomenal economic progress of China and changing regional and global realities. The completion of the projects under the umbrella of CPEC will have a revolutionary impact on the economic profile of Pakistan and will go a long way in changing the lives of people belonging to all the four provinces, as rightly noted and pointed out by His Excellency Xi Jin Ping during his visit to Pakistan.
CPEC will turn Pakistan into an economic hub for the region with all the accompanying benefits on perennial basis. China would also undoubtedly benefit from this undertaking in many ways and be in a much better position to expand its commercial interests on the global level by securing shortest possible access route to the Arabian Sea as well as to import oil for its industrial machine at a much lesser cost and time. It would indeed be a win-win situation for both China and Pakistan and the countries of the region.
The understanding reached between the two countries during the visit of His Excellency Xi Jin Ping to Pakistan for further strengthening economic and defence ties between the two countries and the resolve to maintain continued dialogue and consultations on further reinforcing the strategic cooperation, is a source of great encouragement for Pakistan. Equally inspiring for Pakistan is the Chinese endorsement of its quest for mainstreaming the efforts for the cause of non-proliferation, engagement with Nuclear Suppliers Group and the help rendered for full membership of SCO. The unanimity of views on activating and strengthening of regional and international mechanisms for peace and security, reforms in the UN in recognition of the interests of the member countries and the establishment of a judicious world order, provide a nourishing ingredient to the tree of friendship between the two countries. The stability and economic prosperity of Asia, stretching from the plains of the Caucasus to the shores of the Arabian Sea and the Pacific, to a great extent is dependent on strong and vibrant ties between Pakistan and China.
“CPEC will turn Pakistan into an economic hub for the region with all the accompanying benefits on perennial basis.”
Pakistan feels that the Chinese initiative to set up Asian Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) is also a positive initiative. Infrastructure is the most important ingredient in kick starting the process of sustained economic growth in any country. Most of the Asian countries do not have the basic infrastructure to further their economic ambitions and they also lack the necessary resources to develop it. AIIB would greatly contribute to making available resources for infrastructure development on less stringent conditions than the other international lending institutions. It would encourage a healthy completion among the lending financial institutions and the borrowing countries would be in a better bargaining position to secure the required loans. Pakistan views this effort as a very significant step towards the creation of regional linkages, economic interdependence and eventually economic integration of the Asian countries which could prove a harbinger for peace in the entire continent.
As is evident from the foregoing realities, the relations between have withstood the vicissitudes of time and have continued to maintain an upward graph since their inception in 1951. The hall mark of the bonds between the two countries is that it is a people-to-people bonhomie; a relationship of hearts and minds. The characterisation of Pakistan as ‘Iron Friend’ by President Xi Jin Ping during his last visits to Pakistan rightly depicts the strength of ties between the two countries. The people and government of Pakistan feel the same way about China and its people. They are absolutely justified in celebrating the 65th anniversary of relations and rejoice them in a befitting manner.