(Former president of Pakistan)
Nearly over half a century after the establishment of diplomatic ties, the People’s Republic of China remains the greatest friend and ally Pakistan has known. With our alliance being forged during the height of the Cold War, there is one man I must accredit above all others in fortifying and sustaining that relationship when it was most complex.
He is the unsung hero of international politics and diplomacy, a man who never faltered in his devotion to democracy, equality and education. He was a man whose vision was decades ahead of its time and who serves as a towering figure of inspiration; he is the legendary Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.His legacy of strong relations with China lived through his daughter, and my late wife, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and continues to live through his grandson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Today, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s actions have left a mark on the world that very few actually appreciate outside of Pakistan. When writing his last testament, he regarded his hard work in building ties with China as his greatest achievement in foreign policy for he had the foresight to appreciate that China would eventually support Pakistan in its venture to counter India’s nuclear monopoly in the sub-continent.
A reader may presumptively be lead to ask the question about what he accomplished which would build such a relationship with China which would later be described as “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on.” Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was wise enough to realize that in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Pakistani interests were clearly aligned with China and he moved to swiftly settle the Tran-Karakoram dispute in 1963 to ensure that a firm relationship was established.
The Sino-Pakistani alliance was based upon much more than a common resentment of Indian encroachment, it was forged on the ideals of co-operation, mutual respect and trust.
During Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s visit to Beijing in February 1972, he successfully negotiated an economic and military aid package, worth $300 million for Pakistan and China also agreed to write off loans amounting to over $110 million. Through his diplomatic ingenuity, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took center-stage when facilitated the Sino-American diplomatic effort alongside the prominent Realist, Henry Kissinger. An effort which directly led to President Nixon’s visit to Beijing in February 1972 and resulted in the People’s Republic of China being recognized as a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council over the Republic of China (Taiwan).
The late Chairman Mao and Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto personified the Sino-Pakistani alliance. The two statesmen were on very friendly terms – they were always able to make time to meet each other as is evident through the fact that Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the last statesman Chairman Mao was photographed with.
Imagine the progress, the international statesman, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, would have made for the betterment of Pakistan and its allies such as China had he not been murdered by General Zia ul-Haq, a man who sought to undo his life’s work and divide Pakistan.
However, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, successfully continued her father’s legacy and secured an ever closer union with China when she was Prime Minister. She conducted two prominent state visits to China as Prime Minister, including one which celebrated the late Chairman Mao’s one-hundredth birth anniversary.
I sought to continue her work when I was elected as President of Pakistan and further cement this relationship as a service to Pakistan. Only history and the people of Pakistan can judge that.
With the rise of militant extremism, it is clear that Pakistan is willing to take all necessary measures to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Pakistan and, our ally, China. Co-operation is at the heart of our relationship and no extremist or non-state actor has the will to match our resolve.
During my tenure as President of Pakistan China continued to show that it is our most valuable ally when after one of the worst floods hit Pakistan in the summer of 2010, China provided us with aid and assistance worth over $250 million. In my tenure astounding success of the Gwadar port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) saw Pakistan receive unprecedented amounts of investment worth $46 billion. Our alliance has reached new heights as these investments and free-trade agreements will work to ensure mutual prosperity. CPEC will prove to be the economic ‘Great Leap Forward’ of this generation for Pakistan which will determine the success of our economy in the early 21st century.
The Sino-Pakistani has proven to be essential in developing Pakistan. China continues to provide assistance to Pakistan in maintaining its essential infrastructure. Major projects have been launched as a result of China’s investment including a Lahore-Karachi motorway, the further expansion of the Gwadar Port and the construction of two 1,100 megawatt nuclear reactors.
Karachi and Gwadar provide for a strategic trade-route from the Middle East and Europe to China through the new ‘Silk-Road’. A well maintained road linking Pakistan’s ports to China ensure that China’s economy continues to grow. An achievement we will definitely be proud of for our ally.
The people of the nation of Pakistan are eternally grateful to, our dear ally, China’s genuine interest to see our nation prosper. Prosperity for Pakistan definitely entails prosperity for China.
It is at this time that we must also look back with gratitude at the legendary statesmen such as the likes of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and the late Chairman Mao which made alliance possible and higher than the Himalayas. Asif Ali Zardari.