It is a time to recall with pride their collective achievements and chart new horizons for taking their truly unique friendship and partnership forward. The essence of this friendship is the mutual goodwill, complete trust and shared cultural ethos imbued with values of humility, modesty, sharing and caring.
In a world prone to arrogance of power and where might is right, these Eastern values as epitomized in Pakistan-China friendship and cooperation are a rarity and an example of model inter-state relations that are time tested and have weathered regional and global turbulence. The new era tensions and uncertainties can only be relieved by renewing our faith and confidence in universal ideals and values.
Pakistan and China are young states with deep civilizational roots and a history of mutually enriching interaction spanning several millenniums. Reviving the Silk Road has been a common dream of the two peoples with a view to resurrecting the golden age of multi-faceted mutually beneficial and harmonious cooperation for a glorious future.
The Pakistan-China “special” relations, based on abiding trust and mutual respect, have enabled the two countries to join hands to give shape to their dreams for spreading peace, progress and prosperity, in ever widening circles, for their peoples, the region and beyond.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are 21st century models of international cooperation, underpinned by ideals and principles and invested with political commitment and requisite resources, for positive transformation of the regional and global landscape.
China’s meteoric rise and phenomenal economic growth, in a short time span, has no parallel in human history. The wisdom of the Chinese leadership and hard work of the Chinese people have contributed to the making of an Asian century. Pakistan is proud of the national accomplishments of the friendly Chinese nation. The rising tide lifts all boats. The neighbors of China must benefit first and so should the world.
The veritable renaissance of the Chinese civilization will have a beneficial impact on humanity. China together with Pakistan have endeavored to renew the faith of peoples around the world, especially in developing countries, in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and its promise for a better future.
China as a responsible stakeholder in the international system has always upheld the imperatives of multilateral cooperation ensuing from interdependence and ensuring equitable and positive dividends from globalization.
China is the No.1 economy in terms of purchasing power parity. At home, it has succeeded in lifting over 800 million people out of poverty. It is now the driving engine for the global economy – a global manufacturing and services hub and will soon become a major financial pole. Its technological prowess continues to power exponential growth in advanced earth, marine and space sciences.
China’s rich culture has added new colors to the beautiful mosaic of human accomplishments in multiple domains. China has brought uniquely refreshing perspectives in understanding and drawing lessons from the march of human history. It has demonstrated that if development becomes a “strategic priority,” any nation can attain its dreams.
Rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has been the dream of the Chinese people. Today, China has attained its goal of becoming a moderately developed country. By 2049, our Chinese friends will attain this goal comprehensively. The key lesson from China’s experience is that by avoiding bitter contestations and geopolitical rivalries and opting for peaceful cooperation, based on voluntary, equal footed, mutually beneficial and inclusive partnerships, nations can achieve great progress and prosperity.
This is the foundational thesis of the BRI launched in 2013. It is a visionary initiative that holds the promise of bringing about a historic transformation in the global economic and political landscape. As a concept and in its working, this represents an original and most consequential contribution of China to the future of mankind.
The CPEC is a flagship project of the BRI, signed in 2013 and launched in 2015. Approximately $25 billion have already been injected in various projects. Another $40 billion is expected to be invested in the next phase. CPEC has come to epitomize the new priorities in Pakistan-China economic cooperation and encapsulates the essence of leadership level understandings and agreements over the past few decades.
Chinese concessional credits have made it possible for Pakistan to benefit from China’s economic rise in a substantial manner. CPEC is bound to go transnational and span other adjoining regions thus enabling Pakistan to realize its geo-economic potential as a conduit for trade and commerce and a transportation hub.
Economic and trade cooperation has witnessed a quantum jump with the launching of CPEC, which centers on developing infrastructure, energy, agriculture and industrial development in Pakistan. The development of Gwadar deep sea port holds immense potential for serving as another gateway not only to Pakistan but all of the landlocked states of Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Energy cooperation has been extremely helpful in overcoming shortages. China has also been assisting Pakistan in developing clean coal energy and hydro-electric potential. Oil and gas exploration has also been an important aspect of cooperation. China is also assisting Pakistan to develop its railroad infrastructure.
The Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement has now entered the next phase, which gives all items of Pakistan export interest a zero-tariff access to the vast Chinese market. The Karakoram Highway has been widened and is being linked by high grade expressways to Pakistani ports.
Technological cooperation has been an extremely valuable aspect of China -Pakistan cooperation. There are framework agreements covering all aspects of technology including earth, marine and space sciences. Pakistan and China have developed a long-term plan for cooperation in space.
In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has stepped up cooperation with Pakistan in the field of health.
Bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and China has many dimensions. Defense cooperation is robust. Political consultations on regional and global issues are a regular feature. It reveals a remarkable identity of views between Pakistan and China. Pakistan has supported Chinese position on core issues of Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China has repeatedly expressed support for Pakistan’s sovereignty and independence. Cooperation and coordination at the UN and international forums have been a hallmark of the strategic partnership.
The Pakistan-China friendship will grow from strength to strength and scale new heights. Its new dimensions will be revealed in the realm of thoughts and values, and the full spectrum merger and distilling of the virtues of two ancient civilizations for the benefit of mankind, as a whole.
The author served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to China, India and Denmark and as Foreign Secretary of Pakistan.