The recent visit of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to China has been viewed with great anticipation, taking place in the backdrop of the unilateral operation conducted by the US forces on Pakistan’s soil to kill Osama Bin Laden coupled with US coercive diplomacy, emphasizing old American maxim to ‘do more’ against the militants.
In the most difficult and critical moment of our history, when the whole world is taking advantage of the opportunity arising from Abbottabad operation, ignoring our sacrifices, and pointing fingers towards us. As Pakistan braced under propaganda, the most heartening statement came from Beijing, “China stands firmly behind Pakistan and Pakistani government is firmly resolved and strongly active in its fight against terrorism and has made important contributions to international anti-terror efforts.”
In this regard, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minster Yusuf Raza Gilani reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain an all-weather friendship. Despite the tense situation into which terrorism has landed Pakistan, China, once again has decided to help Pakistan. Besides boosting trade, it will invest in energy, mineral exploration, motorways construction, special industrial zones and customs and tariff harmonization. Pakistan and China have been enjoying most friendly and cordial relations for the last six decades. These relations are time tested and rooted in the hearts and souls of the two peoples. Both always stood shoulder to shoulder in times of trial.
Pakistan was one of the first countries in recognising China. Pakistan also played an important role for the restoration of China’s legitimate rights in the UN, and also remained steadfast ally during Beijing’s period of international isolation in the 1960s and early 70s.
China has long provided Pakistan with major, military technical and economic assistance, including the transfer of technology and equipment. Defence ties between China and Pakistan are time-tested. Both countries collaborate very closely in defence and enjoy strong cooperation. China has helped Pakistan build Heavy Mechanical Complex, Aeronautical Complex and other defence production units. Pakistan is producing the JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft jointly with China.
Trade relations began shortly after the establishment of diplomatic ties in the early 1950s, and the two countries signed their first formal trade agreement in 1963. In October 1982, China-Pakistan Joint Committee of Economy, Trade and Technology was set up. With the joint efforts, Sino-Pakistani economic and trade cooperation has seen excellent progress. A comprehensive free trade agreement was signed in 2008, giving each country unprecedented market access to the other.
The two countries have cooperated on a variety of large-scale infrastructure projects in Pakistan, including highways, gold and copper mines, major electricity complexes and power plants, and numerous nuclear power projects. Roughly ten thousand Chinese workers are engaged in 120 projects in Pakistan. One of the most significant joint development projects of recent years is the major port complex at the naval base of Gwadar. Gwadar Port enables both countries to diversify and secure their crude oil import routes and provide the landlocked, oil and gas-rich Xinjiang province with access to the Arabian Sea.
On the invitation of Prime Minister Gilani, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan December last, where he held several talks with Pakistani leadership. Pakistan and China have concluded agreements worth 35 billion dollars and a bilateral trade volume reaching 15 billion dollars, during this historic visit. The Pakistani telecommunications, energy, infrastructure, heavy engineering, IT, mining, and defence industries have received considerable Chinese investments.
Year 2011 has been declared ‘Friendship Year’ by both countries to commemorate the 60 years of diplomatic relations. PM Gilani’s visit to China was part of these celebrations and both parties exchanged views on deepening bilateral relations, promoting pragmatic cooperation in a wide range of areas and other international and regional issues of common concern. It stays as a major pillar of strength for Pakistan that China remains one of the few countries that have always remained Pakistan’s strong ally. It has never failed in coming to our aid.
In the new world order where the US is evidently siding with India as counterweight to China’s rapid economic expansion and growing power, Pakistan is China’s most dependable friend. In these terms, PM Gilani’s trip is a reinforcement of the deep and long-lasting ties both countries have always enjoyed.