65 years of friendship: Pakistan-China ties can improve regional security, economic growth

65 years of friendship: Pakistan-China ties can improve regional security, economic growth

Pakistan and China mark 65 years of diplomatic ties and friendship

“Pakistan and China, enjoy special friendship and have achieved much .. But we must continue to work for lasting peace and stability in the region to attain regional security and economic development”

By Masood Khan

Masood KhanThis year, 2016, is a special year for Pakistan-China relations. On the 65th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations, we celebrate our strong bonds, successes and brighter prospects for the future.

In the past six decades, our relations have remained steadfast and resilient. Our friendship has been a constant despite changes in domestic polities. It has survived profound changes in regional and international developments. It is a time-tested relationship. It is an ever-green tree whose fruit and shade would be enjoyed by several generations to come.

Back in the 1950s, when the world was in the grip of the Cold War, our leaders quickly realized that destinies of our two countries were intertwined. Three things made a material difference in building trust between our two nations. First, Pakistan openly demanded the restoration of China’s legitimate rights in the United Nations. Second, Pakistan and China signed the 1963 border agreement. Third, Pakistan provided an air corridor to China at a time when China was under a blockade. For its part, China stood by us during the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars.

Pakistan played its diplomatic role in bringing about a rapprochement between and the US and China. We collaborated during the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in the war against terrorism in this century. Young men and women of Pakistan in the 1960s and 1970s looked up to China as a fair and just country which stood for the rights of the poor and the weak.

Today, the impression that China is a true and reliable friend of Pakistan is deeply etched in the collective memory of the people of Pakistan. Likewise, Chinese young and old alike consider Pakistan to be their closest friend and ally.

The friendship between Pakistan and China is the stuff of legends and folklore. We say it is higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey. These are not just poetic shibboleths; we find their resonance in the streets of Islamabad and Beijing; Karachi and Shanghai. Very few people know that our ties date back more than two thousand years ago.

Pakistan and China are joined by mountains and rivers and most of the rivers in Pakistan have their origins in China. But we also share civilizational fault lines. Monks and envoys crossed the daunting heights of the Karakorum, the Hindukush and the Himalayas to connect the Gandhara and the Indus Valley civilizations with the Chinese civilization. FaXian and Xuan Zang, in the 4th and 7th centuries, respectively, were not deterred by the inaccessible altitudes of these mountain ranges. Many scholars from the territory that is now Pakistan traveled to China to understand and imbibe the glorious civilization of China. So, cross-fertilization of our civilizations took place much before the modern era.

Pakistan and China – great strategic cooperative partners

Pakistan and China are strategic cooperative partners. We work together to strengthen bilateral ties and promote peace and stability in the region. Our relationship does not target a third country. Over the decades, our armed forces have cooperated most productively. Defense cooperation between the two countries covers security dialogue, joint exercises, training, defense technology, and defense trade. In all these areas, we have made impressive progress. We have established new thresholds in joint defense production by manufacturing jetfighters, frigates, and tanks. Terrorism is a common enemy of Pakistan and China. Pakistan and China would continue to help each other to fight and eliminate terrorism from our soils. We believe that China’s security is Pakistan’s security and in Pakistan’s security lies China’s security.

Pakistan and China are linked so closely that any move to hurt China’s security in Xinjiang hurts us simultaneously. Our two countries are determined to fight the evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Over the years, we have been cooperating successfully to frustrate the designs of terrorists. Our solidarity in this regard is rock solid. No country or force can drive a wedge between us. China recognizes the tremendous sacrifices Pakistan has made in the war against terrorism.

We deeply appreciate China’s support to our efforts to uphold our sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. China also appreciates Pakistan’s efforts for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes with its neighbors. In the international forums, no two delegations are as close as Chinese and Pakistani delegations. Committed to One-China Policy, we support, in all international forums, China’s stand on Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights. We consult and support each other on global governance, UN reform, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, climate change and food security, to name a few areas.

Although our friendship is unique and we have achieved so much, we will not sit on our laurels. We have our work cut for us for the next fifteen years. The time is ripe for integrating our geostrategic and geo-economic streams for peace, stability and development. In the years to come, we will maintain and enhance our strategic communication to protect our shared interests.

We compliment the Chinese leadership over its initiative to build the land and maritime Silk Roads. The Belt and the Road will promote connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa, foster peace and development, usher in prosperity, create fairer international economic and trade regimes, increase tolerance for diversity, and bring world civilizations closer. Pakistan too is negotiating a historic transition.

As we consolidate our democratic institutions and develop our economy, we are determined to eliminate terrorism, work towards creating a peaceful neighborhood, stimulate economic growth, and bring Pakistan on par with other emerging nations. Our interface with China helps us achieve these goals.

CPEC to boost regional connectivity and economic development

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a joint product of the vision of the two countries. It is the central plank of the Belt and the Road. The Corridor is spurring growth in transportation infrastructure, energy and industrial development. It leverages the strategic economic geography of Pakistan and China to build roads, railway lines, oil and gas pipelines, and optical fibre cables within Pakistan and across the border with China. It should help us double Pakistan’s power generation in less than a decade. It will enable us to create new jobs, start new businesses, and eradicate poverty. The US $46 billion Corridor will link East Asia to South, Central and West Asia; as well as the Middle East and Africa. Pakistan will emerge as a hub and a pivot for multiple regions.

China-Pakistan Economic Corrido

The Corridor running from Kashgar to Gwadar will become a new metaphor for correlation and cooperation. It has the potential to become the most muscular economic artery and to evolve a new regional economic architecture. The people of Pakistan – of all provinces and areas – will be primary and direct beneficiaries of the Corridor. It is not a road, it is network we are building. Some projects will yield early dividends; others will take time; but all will be completed. Nobody will be left behind once the Corridor is complete.

Trade between China and Pakistan has crossed the $19 billion mark and Pakistan’s exports have also registered a substantial increase. Given the complementarity of our economies, this is still modest. We must soon cross the target of $30 billion and strive to go beyond it.

Pakistan and China growing ties to enhance regional security and development

Pakistan and China will continue to work for lasting peace and stability in our region. We realize that peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan are key to regional security and economic development. In this regard, we appreciate China’s constructive and supportive role to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Other nations try to decipher the mystique of our special bond. The secret ingredient in our relations is mutual trust. The popular sentiment reinforcing our ties is our soft power. The torch of the bond of our two peoples will be passed to the new generations and therefore it is imperative that we invest more heavily in people to people exchanges, especially in the current year. It should be our common resolute endeavor to facilitate visits of young entrepreneurs, academics, students, scientists, and artists so that they can open a new chapter in the glorious history of Pakistan-China relations.

The author, Masood Khan, is a career diplomat who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to China for four years. He is now Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

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