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Real friends


March 29, 2020

Paulo Coelho de Souza, Brazilian lyricist and literary figure, describing friendship once said: “Friendship is not about whom you know the longest. It is about who came and never left”.

What he said is quintessential of the friendship between Pakistan and China which is far beyond and above the realm of normal diplomatic relations between two states. The epithet of ‘iron brothers’ proudly claimed by the two countries reflects the impregnable nature of relations between the two countries which have withstood the vicissitudes of time.

The development of relations with China has been the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan has been supporting China on all issues of importance to the latter. It was also Pakistan which orchestrated rapprochement between China and the US in 1972 and consequently Nixon travelled to China to meet Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, ending China’s global isolation. Chinese leaders do appreciate Pakistan’s role in that regard as well as its steadfastness and unqualified support.

Similarly, Pakistan is also greatly indebted to China for its continued unflinching support on Kashmir. It was with the Chinese support that the issue of Kashmir came up for discussion in the meeting of UNSC after 50 years in the backdrop of the unilateral action by the Modi government to end the special status of IOK.

China has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of the KKH Highway, Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chashma Nuclear Plants are monuments of this ever-spiking relationship. In the backdrop of the US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regarded as a discriminatory act, China exhibited the strength of the friendship between the two countries by agreeing to help Pakistan in building Chashma IV and V. It has also been extending support to Pakistan regarding its stance for criteria based admittance of new members to the prestigious Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Pakistan and China also have very strong defence ties. It is pertinent to point out that in early March 2017 a Chinese-built Low to Medium altitude Air Defence System was inducted into the air defence system of the Pakistan Army that would considerably enhance its response capability to current and emerging threats. The co-production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft at the PAC is yet another milestone in defence relations between the two countries.

China fully understands the challenges being faced by Pakistan, its geo-political relevance, contributions towards regional peace and stability and has repeatedly assured full spectrum support for Pakistan in grappling with those challenges. It has always appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to deal with terrorism, urging the world as well to acknowledge those achievements.

CPEC has undoubtedly added eternity to the infallible relations between the two states and their people. By becoming part of CPEC, Pakistan is poised not only to make up for the lost opportunities but also to become an economic powerhouse within the next two decades. Apart from radically changing the dynamics of regional connectivity and trade, it is going to act as a catalyst in the process of Pakistan’s transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. The development of infrastructure under CPEC will lay a firm foundation for the industrialization of Pakistan. CPEC is a win-win initiative for China, Pakistan and the entire region.

China has shown remarkable flexibility by expanding the scope of CPEC to the social sectors, particularly alleviation of poverty. The development occurred during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China. Chinese leaders pledged to make increased investments in those sectors besides extending $2 billion financial support to tide over the financial crisis confronting the country. China also made a commitment to rectify the trade imbalance between the two countries by taking steps to enhance Pakistani exports China.

Now when Pakistan is struggling to cope with the onslaught of the coronavirus, China stands in the forefront to help the country cope with the challenge. Besides providing assistance amounting to $4 million to build a hospital, it is also sending a medical team comprising experts to provide technical assistance and sharing knowledge with Pakistani doctors with regard to dealing with the deadly disease. Help is also pouring in from private sources in China with the AliBaba Foundation having already donated test kits and masks.

Chinese assistance to Pakistan also includes twelve thousand test kits, 3000000 masks, 10000 protective units. Chairman NDMA revealed at a press conference that 30,000 protective kits for medical staff working in the ICU are also coming from China and soon would be made available to all of them. According to him, the Xinjiang government is also sending some equipment through the Khunjerab border to meet the needs of Gilgit-Baltistan for the next couple of weeks. Pakistan will also receive from China a huge walk-through testing machine which will carry out mass screening of people in places where individual tests may not be possible.

Pakistan is also procuring ventilators from China. The Chinese government has repeatedly reiterated that it stands with Pakistan in this time of adversity and will not leave it alone. That is what friendship and being iron-brothers means.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Email: [email protected]