By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

Pakistan and China are celebrating 60th anniversary of their bi-lateral relationship. Both countries established their diplomatic relationship inMay 1951. In order to reaffirm their tireless friendship, both countries have declared year-2011, as the year for the celebrationsof Pak-Chinadiplomatic relationship. Both countries are holding a series of “commemorative activities covering fields like politics, economy, culture, education, sports etc.”  Under the dynamic leadership of Mao Zedong, People’s Republic of China came into being from the ashes of civil war between Communists and Nationalists on October 1, 1949. Historically, “In China’s Tang dynasty, Hsuan-tsang, an eminent Chinese monk, studied Buddhism in Taxila on his pilgrimage to the west. His sojourn in Pakistan, recounted in a book entitled The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions, is a popular account in the history of exchanges between the Chinese and Pakistani people.”

Following the establishment of Pak-China diplomatic relationship in May 1951, both countries has attained many milestones in their bi-lateral relationship. In the era of Field Martial Muhammad Ayub, then Foreign Minister (later Prime Minister), Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto formalised this relationship on the strategic direction 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 and Pakistan maintained it as an inalienable part of its diplomatic relationship.   It is considered view of the political analysts that, “Pak-China friendship is based on four pillars; geography, history, economics and necessity.” Indeed, owing to the geographical contiguity, we are neighbours, whereas history has made us friends. Likewise; economics has made us partners, whereas, necessity has made us allies.

Pakistan has the honour of recognizing this great neighbour soon after it came into being and was the first Muslim country to do so. In these initial days, Pakistan maintained a steady and cordial relationship with China and supported restoration   of its legitimate right in the United Nations Organizations through hectic lobbying, which positioned it as the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.  Later China helped Pakistan in the construction of a road linking China’s Xingjian region with the Gilgit-Baltistan. The strategic partnership between both countries was initially driven by the mutual need and to counter the influence of other regional and extra regional powers. Apart from the political connections, both countries had developed military relationship which subsequently led towards creation of   a Joint Committee for Economy, Trade and Technology in 1982.

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Earlier Pakistan played a very crucial role in bringing United States and China closer to each other in early 1970s. The opportunities had allowed China to come out from the close door economy and regional politics, thus allowing it to interact with the countries at the global level. Because of that beginning, China later tailored its political outlook, trade and industrialization and has now emerged as a global power.  During the cold war as well as thereafter, Pakistan indeed acted as a bridge between China and the Western world. The friendship between the two countries has matured into a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and development in the region and abroad.

Right from the beginning, the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries has remained as a relatively uninterrupted, trust-bond and all weather. It is said that friendship between Pakistan and China is “deeper than the oceans, and higher than the mountains.”  Over the years, this friendship has survived numerous geo-political and geo-strategic changes which took place at the global and regional level.

During the critical stages like 1965 and 1971 wars, China whole heartedly supported Pakistan.  At the global level, China had always supported Pakistani point of view on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, considering India as an illegal occupant of the state’s territory. Subsequent to Indo-US Strategic Partnership in 2005, Pakistan and China had signed a landmark ‘Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation’, whereby both committed themselves that “neither party will join any alliance or block which infringes upon the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity” of either nation, and “would not conclude treaties of this nature with any third party.”

Pakistan and China are closely co-operating in the field of Defence production.  China has been a high- value guarantor and a reliable supplier of conventional military equipment to Pakistan like; F-7 fighters, T-85 main battle tank (ZTZ96 is its new version). China has subsidized the future construction of four frigates for the Pakistan navy. Apart from this, there is a joint production of ‘JF-17 Thunder’ aircraft between Pakistan and China which has the strategic significance for Pakistan, and is a unique example of Sino-Pak deep rooted friendship.

Upon establishment of the first ever trade agreement for mutual benefit and cooperation of both countries in 1953, our bilateral trade was $10 million. In 2008, this trade reached to $7 billion. It is expected that the bi-lateral trade volume would reach to $15 billion within the next five years. hpw The only strategically significant deep sea Gwader port in Pakistan has been completed in a record time with the whole hearted support of China. The port is located just 150 nautical miles from the Straits of Hormuz, through which passes nearly 60 per cent of the world’s oil supplies. The port is of the great strategic value as it supplements Pakistan’s importance in the region, while allowing China to diversify and secure its crude oil import routes and simultaneously gain access to the Persian Gulf.

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China is in the process of linking the Central Asian Republics with the Karakoram Highway.  Pakistan and China are already working for the development of the Pak-China Trade Corridor along the Karakoram Highway (KKH). In this regard, the highway is being upgraded and lying of a railway track along the KKH is also in progress. This would link the Gwader with its semi autonomous region of Xinjiang through an all weather highway.  The Gwader port and communication infrastructure upon completion would enable China to have an easy access with the Middle Eastern countries and its strategic presence around the Indian Ocean.  In the words of Mr. Luo Zhaohui, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, “China-Pakistan relations have become an example of harmonious coexistence between countries of different civilizations. We view our relations with Pakistan in strategic terms and from a long terms perspective. Let’s join hands and work hard to usher in a much brighter tomorrow of Sino-Pak friendship and cooperation”.  

In December 2010, Chinese Premier Mr. Wen Jiabao, visited Pakistan for three days. This visit is indeed of a unique significance, as it covers all aspects viz; the strategic, political and economic. During the visit, Premier Wen Jiabao made sure that he meets all stakeholders in Pakistan. Rather, it was a rare mosaic of Pakistani political, religious, and territorial leadership gathering to welcome their all time friend in Islamabad. During the visit of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Pakistan and China concluded economic deals worth $35 billion in total.  These deals include; 17 agreements, four memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a joint venture. Around (83) Chinese companies are working in Pakistan in Oil & Gas, IT & Telecom, Power Generation, Engineering, Automobiles, Infrastructure and Mining sectors. There are about 120 Chinese enterprises working in Pakistan and that under the Five Year Program for trade and economic cooperation, 62 projects have been identified, out of which 27 have been launched; 26 are being examined; and 12 are being reviewed. This indeed is a new record of the economic deals and agreements in the history of traditional friends. In his address with the Joint Session of the Pakistani Parliament, Chinese Premier assured Pakistan an unflinching Chinese support on the issue of Kashmir as per UN resolutions.

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Chinese Prime Minister, also appreciated Pakistan’s role and sacrifices, in fighting out the terrorism and said, “Pakistan has paid a heavy price in combating terrorism. The fight against terrorism should not be linked with any religion or ethnic group and there should be no double standards.” Indeed, in conformity to the national interests of the peoples of both countries, this strategic partnership would promote, “peace, stability and prosperity of the region.” Otherwise, China’s foreign policy revolves around four aspects: One; at the global level, it desires to ensure strategic stability viz-a-viz other with major countries. Two;  promoting peace, stability and prosperity at the Asian level. Three; “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with developing countries.” Four; vigorously conducting multilateral diplomacy for closer international cooperation.

Despite of having different social setup, ideologies and religion, Sino-Pak bi-lateral relationship has stood the test of time. The main feature of this closer tie is that, irrespective of the internal situation and the form of the government, “leaders of both the countries attach great importance and give personal care to the relationship.” In the wordings of the former Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, both countries in fact observe “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We never interfere in each other’s internal affairs. We always consult each other about major issues on an equal basis. And, we conduct cooperation to mutual benefit. There is no clash of interests between China and Pakistan.”

There exists unparallel harmonization between people and the both Governments on political, diplomatic, economic and security aspects. In order to face the rapidly changing the global politics, both countries need to “overcome challenges and carry forward our traditional friendship.” Sino-Pak all-weather friendship is based on complete trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views on all issues. This sentiment resounds in the psyche of our people and is passing on from generation to generation. Our relationship has evolved into a long-term strategic partnership aimed at promoting peace stability and prosperity in the region. “Pakistan plumes the great achievements of the Chinese people which attest to the genius, wisdom and talents of the Chinese people and their sagacious leadership.” 

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