Pak-China friendship on the rise

Faisal Zahid Malik.

The Pak-China friendship is an anchor of peace and stability in this part of the world as there is no friendship like ours, true and strong and this relationship will be strengthened in the years ahead,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani very rightly said this while addressing a function in connection with the celebrations of 60th anniversary of Pak-China diplomatic relationship, at Islamabad.

There is no denying of the fact that China is the only tried and trusted friend of Pakistan who always stood behind us during the times of trial.The relationship which began in 1950 became stronger and closer with the passage of time. The successive generations of leaders in Pakistan and China have nurtured Pakistan-China relationship with a common vision, care and utmost sincerity. As a matter of fact Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto actually cemented this everlasting friendship which has withstood the test of times in all these years. And, in fact, it was he who coined the famous saying that our friendship is taller than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans.

China has also supported Pakistan through thick and thin. In 2008 during Pakistan-Indian tensions, it promised unlimited financial and military aid. The military relationship between the two nations has often been regarded by the leaders of both countries as all weather and time tested. The sharing of a common border makes this relationship all the more important in the world’s geo-strategic alliances. The policy of having good relations between the two armed forces also helped in countering the balance of power in Asia. In recent years this relationship has deepened even further by having defence agreements between the two countries. China has also been a steady source of military equipment to the Pakistani Army. It has helped Pakistan in setting-up mass weapons production factories, transferring technology and modernizing the existing facilities. In the last 20 years, the two countries are involved in the joint venture of several projects to enhance military and weaponry systems, which includes JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Karakorum advance training aircraft, space technology, AWACS, Al-Khalid tank, Babur cruise missile etc.

Pakistan being an old ally of US played a very significant role in bringing China and America closer. The first meeting of Dr. Henry Kissinger with the Chinese leader Mao Zedong is still considered to be a master stroke of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

They still remember with gratitude the significant role Pakistan played in the early 1970s, when Henry Kissinger secretly visited Beijing with the help of Pakistan’s foreign office, which enabled China to break its isolation from the West and the US. Pakistan also helped China to become a member of the United Nations and has also been instrumental in fostering excellent relations of China with other Muslim countries of the world. Pakistan has a multi-dimensional and deep-rooted relationship with China. The long-standing bonds of friendship between the two countries are based on mutual trust and confidence. Pakistan has always supported China on all issues of importance, specially those related to the question of China’s sovereignty like Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and various other sensitive issues. The Chinese leadership, on the other hand, has always appreciated Pakistan’s unconditional support on issues of their concern. In the past, China played a major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, especially when increasingly stringent export controls in Western Countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and uranium enriching equipment from elsewhere. China has supplied Pakistan with equipment to enrich its indigenous uranium.

Since 2008, when the new People’s government assumed the reigns of Pakistan, things began to warm up all over again between Pakistan and China. President Zardari has declared relations with China as the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He has made six visits to China so far. During these visits to China, he was able to bring the business leaders of both countries closer to each other. His visits have given impetus to joint economic projects, promoting regional connectivity, harnessing new sources of energy and enhancing people to people contacts between the two countries. During the last few years, trade between two countries has grown considerably.

The Pakistani telecommunications, energy, infrastructure, heavy engineering, IT, mining, and defense industries sectors have received considerable Chinese investments. During various visits of President Zardari to China, several new agreements have been signed that include: building hydroelectric dams, transfer of hybrid seed technology, expanding banking operations, roads and communication networks, and cooperation in agriculture focusing on optimum utilization of irrigation water and development of new high yielding varieties of wheat and cotton. The upgrading of Karakoram Highway (which connects the two countries via the Khunjrab Pass) and the progress of the National Trade Corridor (aka: NTC) has also been discussed during Zardari’s visits to China. Under the NTC, a network of 4,000 Km of modern highways, including the Karakoram Highway and linkages with Gwadar Port, will be established to strengthen the transport links, especially with Central Asian Republics and China.

Finally, all of these relation-cementing efforts of Zardari have begun to bear fruits now. Pakistan and China have concluded deals and agreements worth $ 35 billion and a bilateral trade volume reaching $15 billion, during this historic high profile visit of Premier Wen Jia Bao. They include: 17 agreements, 04 Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs), and a joint venture. Pak-China Business Cooperation Summit was attended by both Premiers participated by 260 strong Chinese delegates with their 150 strong Pakistani counterparts

Five Year Development program on Economic trades and free trade agreement in goods and investments was also signed. China also agreed to further develop and boost Pakistan’s Mineral and Energy sector as well as broaden financial and banking sector cooperation. Both sides inked almost twelve agreements/MOUs during the visit in the fields of economic and technical cooperation, free trade, minerals, petroleum and natural resources, environmental protection, radio and television, space technology, agriculture sector, properties exchange between foreign ministries of the two countries. Now with the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Gillani it is hoped that we will touch the new heights of friendship.

Pak-China friendship on the rise

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