ON last Thursday China said that its relationship with Pakistan stood the test of the changing international landscape and remained “firm as a rock” as the all-weather allies celebrated the 69th year of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. “Today marks the 69th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between China and Pakistan. I offer congratulations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman told a media briefing here on Thursday. Recently Pakistan President Arif Alvi paid a two-day official visit to China. And of course, in today’s world of diplomatic wrangling and conspiracies, China-Pakistan strategic friendship is a paragon model of friendly relationship which carries a decades-long history of sincerity, sacrifice, assistance and comradeship.
As regards the latest visit of President Arif Alvi to China in March, FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi said their two-day visit to China implies Pakistan stands by China through thick and thin. He commended Chinese resilience in the wake of coronavirus outbreak and extended all possible support to the people and Chinese government. He expressed gratitude for treating Pakistani students in China like their own and assistance to combat the locust outbreak in Pakistan. With reference to CPEC, he said Coronavirus will not affect the pace of flagship project and assured scheduled completion of all projects under the CPEC. Objectively, the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Islamabad is characterized by feelings of mutual trust, respect and goodwill towards each other. There is a regular exchange of visits at the highest level between two countries. The strategic cooperation between two states has grown over the past several decades. Economically, China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major investor, especially in infrastructure and energy sectors. In 2018, bilateral trade between two countries reached US$ 18 billion. With official launch of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the bilateral relationship has been elevated to a higher level.
Pakistan Ambassador to China Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi said:
“I foresee more robust, inclusive and all-encompassing relations between our two countries in the future, which would not only serve the best interests of our two countries but would also ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the entire region,” she said in an interview with China.org.cn. Ambassador Naghma Hashmi said that Pakistan and China were “iron brothers” who had always stood by each other in their hour of need. Pakistan had been the major recipient of an overwhelming volume of essential equipment including testing kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment, infrared scanners and face masks, which had come from official channels, the corporate sector and Chinese individuals. “China is also extending support to Pakistan to help build a hospital against Covid-19,” she added. During the visit of President Arif Alvi to China on March 16-17, both countries also signed Letters of Exchange to enhance Pakistan’s capability to fight the epidemic. During PM Khan official visit to China in October-2019 President Xi also reiterated China’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and appreciated the PTI government’s agenda for socio-economic development and people-centred progress. He asserted that China-Pakistan ties would continue to acquire greater strength, and practical cooperation would be increased over time. The two sides also exchanged views on the regional situation, including Afghanistan and South Asia.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ( CPEC) is a flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative of “One Belt and One Road”. It aims at enhancing connectivity and improving infrastructure between Pakistan and China. Several projects are being implemented under CPEC, for enhancement of infrastructure, power generation, industrial growth and agriculture revolution. Leaders from 37 countries and delegations from over 100 countries participated in the BRI Forum. In his keynote speech at the forum’s opening ceremony, Imran Khan called for greater attention towards tackling climate change and poverty, while urging world leaders to undertake joint efforts to address impediments in the way of sustainable global growth. In his address Imran Khan presented five proposals to further expand China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan’s official take is that CPEC is heading forward and hinted the signing of two new joint working groups for agriculture and technological advancement. As the first phase of CPEC, is focused on the overall development of communications and network projects including roads, bridges and motorways, the second phase is primarily committed to giving an important impetus on agriculture cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad, as recently there have been discussions primarily in setting priorities for the agricultural development. Both Pakistan and China agreed to jointly implement the Memorandum of Understanding on further cooperation in dealing with disease and pest control including locust, plant diseases and insect and pest prevention. The Karachi-based Applied Economics Research Centre and Pakistan’s Planning Commission says that in the next 15 years, 700,000 to 800,000 jobs may be created under CPEC, largely in the infrastructure, energy and transportation sectors.
Both the US and India unjustifiably criticise the CPEC. The Chinese embassy in Pakistan on Thursday last called out US diplomat Alice Wells for her “irresponsible remarks” regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), calling it another “doomed attempt to defame Sino-Pak relations”. The Chinese government, it said, always requests the Chinese companies to operate according to local laws and regulations. “All Chinese companies joining the CPEC enjoy international reputation. All projects strictly follow the market-oriented and internationally accepted business model, adopt state of art technology and strict environmental protection standards,” the statement added. The Foreign Office (FO) said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was transparently contributing to national development and issues in the execution of the project were bilaterally addressed by Beijing and Islamabad through existing mechanisms.
The China-Pakistan bond has been further reinforced during the recent outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as Pakistan was among first friendly countries to send all their available medical equipment to help fend off the epidemic. It is a fact that since the outbreak of the epidemic, all sectors of China have been continuously supporting Pakistan. On Mar 31st, Beijing Lianxin Charity Foundation donated a batch of medical supplies to the Pakistani embassy in Beijing. National Disaster Management Authority informed that China made a huge contribution in medical relief assistance to Pakistan amid the pandemic outbreak and China made 80% of total aid Pakistan has received so far.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-intternal law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.