Pak-Sino friendship year

Beijing and Islamabad have jointly declared 2011 as “Pak-China friendship year” in recognition of 60 years of exemplary, all-weather friendship that has stood the test of time. Time has proved that China is Pakistan’s “friend in need.” Its help has been quiet and unintrusive, in sharp contrast to the bluster of our other “friends,” who are never averse to resorting to arm-twisting at times.

Pak-China ties hold the promise of flowering into an even closer partnership in the years ahead. From being an international pariah state, shunned by the world powers, China has risen to the status of an economic superpower, and there are predictions that it may, one day, replace the US as the world’s sole superpower. The growing budgetary deficit of the US shows an economic decline, thanks largely to America’s expanding military engagements. China and Pakistan will celebrate the “Friendship Year” at the leadership, government, business and people-to-people level.

The year will mark an exchange of visits at different levels to further cement the existing bonds of friendship. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani in their messages to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have highlighted the uniqueness of the relationship that has been the main binding force behind the everlasting friendship.

The recent visit of the Chinese prime minister to Pakistan has demonstrated, yet again, that despite China’s growing economic interaction with India, Pak-China friendship has remained Beijing’s diplomatic pivot. China is the only major world power that has always extended to us willing help, with no strings attached.

The thrust of Pak-China co-operation has largely been defence- and energy-oriented, although Beijing has invariably extended unstinted co-operation in other fields as well. Pakistan was the first Islamic, and third non-communist state, to accord diplomatic recognition to China in 1951, although the consolidation of ties had started in the early 1960s when Pakistan supported China at the UN. At the time of the Sino-India border war, the US had rushed military assistance to India, which was clearly detrimental to Pakistan’s security interests. This was one of the reasons why Pakistan had opted to quit the western orbit of Seato and Cento.

By that time, a commonality of interest had emerged between Pakistan and China, generating a shared sense of an evolving geo-strategic environment. The relationship has since blossomed into a multifaceted, unbreakable bond. Gwadar deep-sea port and the Chashma nuclear power complex, to which two more units have since been added and the Heavy Mechanical Complex, stand out as an enduring testimony to the Pak-China friendship. China has been equally helpful in strengthening Pakistan’s defence capability, which has allowed Pakistan to maintain a measure of parity with India, although India’s military outreach seems to have since extended much beyond the Indian Ocean.

The Indian bid for a Security Council seat is also a part of its great power ambitions. It has added to its navy nuclear-powered warships and submarines, which have enhanced its naval outreach much beyond the Indian Ocean. Earlier, the contours of US policy to prop up India as a possible geo-strategic counterweight to China had become visible during Bill Clinton’s five-day marathon India visit. The visit had marked MoUs on technology transfer.

It goes to the Indian policymakers’ sagacity that even at the height of the Cold War, they had used the platform of the NAM to maintain productive ties with both the camps, at a time when Pakistan had chosen to remain tied to the West’s apron-strings – a relationship the true nature of which has since been partly exposed by the WikiLeaks revelations. It goes to the credit of China that it has remained steadfast in its co-operation with Pakistan, probably as a recompense for the role Islamabad had played in facilitating Kissinger’s 1970 secret visit to Beijing and other subsequent developments. China’s principled and balanced stance on all issues has been a stabilising influence in international affairs.

The economic dimension of Pak-China friendship has assumed centre-stage, while security-related co-operation has taken on an added dimension in view of the rapidly changing geo-strategic environment in the region. China has always appreciated Pakistan’s one-China policy, and assured it of continued support at the UN and all other multinational fora. There is a need to further expand and deepen Pak-China ties. Further, Pakistan needs to seek a higher level of technology transfers, which can enhance its productive potential. Declaring 2011 a year of Pak-China friendship is a decision that will do justice to 60 years of exemplary friendship and co-operation between China and Pakistan.

Editorials – Pak-Sino friendship year.

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