Pak-China relationship is an example of unprecedented and time-tested friendship. In the bi-lateral relationship of nations, there have been very less occasions once such a long-standing friendship has continued without having an iota of misunderstanding for so long.
During his address with the joint session of Pakistani Parliament, Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao lauded Pakistan’s role and sacrifices it rendered in combating the terrorism. He said, “Pakistan has paid a heavy price in combating terrorism and the fight against terrorism should not be linked with any religion or ethnic group and there should be no double standards.” He emphasized upon the international community for a greater support of this Pakistani role, while making a firm commitment to further enhance and bolster the strategic and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China. Indeed, in conformity to the national interests of the peoples of both countries, this strategic cooperation would promote, “peace, stability and prosperity of the region.”
The three days historic visit of Chinese Premier is consider as a new milestone in the Sino-Pak history of bi-lateral relationship. Indeed, Pakistan is among the first few countries, which recognized and established the diplomatic relations with it in the initial days of its emergence as a communist state. Islamabad undertook hectic lobbying for China in getting UN membership. The initial measured mutual understanding got an impetus following the Sino-Pak border demarcation in 1963. In the era of Field Martial Muhammad Ayub, Sino-Pak relationship was formalised on the strategic lines. Through his strategic vision, he made Pak-China relationship as an essential and never changing pillar of the Foreign Policy of Pakistan. The same vision exists even today as declared by Premier Wen, “To cement and advance the all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Pakistan is our common strategic choice.”
China has always appreciated its deep-rooted friendship with Pakistan and acknowledges Pakistan’s untiring efforts for getting her closer to United States in early 1970s. Pakistan also acted as a bridge between Beijing and Washington and as a result, China got an opening and diplomatic and trade excess into the Western world, whereas, U.S got a Communist friend in Asia. Thereafter, Chinese markets and goods were introduced at the global level and its economy started prospering to a level of second to US only in the contemporary world today.
Unlike the traditional meetings with the President and Prime Minister, Chinese Premier met with leaders of all political parties of Pakistan. It was rather a rare mosaic of Pakistani political, religious, and territorial leadership gathering to welcome their all time friend in Islamabad. This gathering was indicative of the fact that, all political actors in Islamabad are on the same page when it comes to Sino-Pak relationship. This fact was amply highlighted in the welcoming address of the leader of opposition during joint session of Parliament, “We are mired in a lot of controversies, but on one issue there is no controversy and that is our friendship with China.” Chinese Premier also met Armed Forces heads under Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and assured further enhancement in the ongoing cooperation in the field of defence. Premier Wen Jiabao declared that, “Beijing would never give up on Pakistan.” Seeing the unity among the leadership in Pakistan, Prime Minister Wen said that, “Government and people of Pakistan are united and moving forward to safeguard solidarity, prosperity, and sovereignty of the country.”
Today China houses 20% global population and because of its overwhelming growth rate, it has become a powerhouse of Asia. The enormous Chinese development in the field of technology, industry and even in the field of defence has created a sense of fear in the Western world. Since China has strategic partnership with Pakistan, therefore, this aspect seriously bothers India. Projects like; Karakoram highway, Gwadar port, and Chashma nuclear reactors are some of the examples of growing Sino-Pak strategic cooperation.
During the visit of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Pakistan and China concluded economic deals worth $35 billion in total. This indeed is a new record of the economic deals and agreements in the history of traditional friends. Both Premiers attended the Pak-China Business Cooperation summit, participated by 260 Chinese delegates with their 150 Pakistani counterparts. The agreements reached during the summit include; “development of energy sector, promotion of trade, exploration of natural resources and development of agriculture, livestock, finance and banking sectors.”
The bi-lateral trade between Pakistan and China rise from $1 billion in 2002, to $6.8 billion in 2009. Chinese Premier desires that volume of this trade should be brought to the level of $10 billion on earliest possible timeframe. In addition, Premier Wen said, “his country would increase investment in Gwadar Port, constructed by China in 2006. Chinese Premier promised that his country would remove trade barriers between Pakistan and China by improving trade infrastructure and promoting Pakistani exports. In fact, Pakistan is not a resource deficient country; nevertheless, problem lies with the technical expertise, infrastructure development, and availability of capital. Apart from huge reserves of unexplored hydrocarbons, “Pakistan has 185 billion tonnes of coal reserves, which would be converted into energy to satisfy Pakistan’s growing demand.” Pakistan welcomes Chinese investment in the energy sector and exploration of its oil and gas resources. Prime Minister assured Chinese investors for special economic incentives like; “duty-free import of plant and machinery, exemption from sales tax and income tax.” In spite of a stiff resistance from New Delhi and Washington, China has agreed to establish two nuclear plants as part of the civil nuclear energy programme.
At the political and global horizon, China supports Pakistani point of view on Kashmir issue. It has a clear and unambiguous stated stance that, Kashmiri must get their right of self-determination as per UN resolutions. China indeed, rejects all Indian assertions of betraying Pak-China relationship and regional domination by India. In addition, China does not support Indian case for a permanent membership of UNSC.
As compare to rocky, complicated, and suspicious relationship with United States, Sino-Pak relationship is a history of mutuality, naivety, and sincerity. Chinese Premier has the moral courage to laud the sacrifices of Pakistan in combating the terrorism. This acknowledgement and praise indeed, is in stark contrast to a “cacophony of statements emanating out of Washington that urge Pakistan to do more.” Therefore, the red carpet reception for such a time tested friend and declaring the “Friendship with China as a matter of pride for Pakistani nation,” by Prime Minister Gilani was a true reflection of the national sentiments.
—The writer is an analyst of international relations.