By Ch. Muhammad Natiq
Pakistan & China enjoys unprecedented strong bilateral diplomatic relations & all-weather strategic cooperative partnership based on mutual trust, respect and goodwill. Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951, Pakistan and China have forged an all-weather friendship & conducted all-around cooperation. It remains firm as a rock as today we mark 70 years of Pakistan and China’s Friendship.
Pakistan-China diplomatic friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the sea. Fraternal ties between our two countries have evolved into an ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ thereby setting a new model for modern inter-state relations.
Pakistan and China are iron brothers who have gone through thick and thin together and are bound by stronger ties between the two peoples. Both countries have progressively enhanced their engagements in diverse fields ranging from political and economic ties to ever-increasing cooperation for enriching cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
In 2014, The government of Pakistan and China agree on the construction of the 27 km Orange Line metro train project in Punjab. Many important defence strengthening projects and CPEC’s greatest multi-mega flagship project of China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) are a practical proof of the same true friendship and full confidence that will not only strengthen Pakistan’s economic, communications, defence, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, security socio-economic development but also it’s impact in all walks of life.
Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan, the two sides held more than 140 activities in celebration and commemoration of this important occasion, which all attached high popularity.
China’s Sp to Pak over Kashmir Issue
China has always spoken out for the right of Kashmiris to self-determination with courage and boldness and the Kashmiri people consider China as their shelter for resolving the Kashmir issue. China has played an important role in supporting Pakistan’s just and principled position on the Jammu and Kashmir situation, underscoring that the dispute is an objective fact established by the UN charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India.
• Beijing has also underlined that any unilateral change to the status quo in the Kashmir region is illegal and invalid. China has always defended Pakistan’s rights at the international level. The dust that the Chinese army has inflicted on India in Ladakh in the last few months is also its own example.
CPEC: The CPEC project is the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his diligent team, who have approved multi-billion dollars great project and are working hard to complete it. Pakistan supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has become a pivot for connectivity and global growth.
As the flagship project of BRI, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is set to become a high-quality demonstration project of the BRI and accelerate economic integration and regional connectivity. There is a complete consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan on CPEC’s indispensability for our national development.
Nowadays, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has entered a new stage of high-quality development, and the cooperation between our two sides will have even greater potential. CPEC has enabled Beijing and Islamabad to shift the focus on bilateral relationships away from strategic and defence collaboration to economic engagement, trade and connectivity
Chinese analysts have argued that Pakistan is China’s “one real ally,” and policy-makers see the bilateral relationship as a ‘model of state-to-state relations,’ particularly, of ‘good neighbourly friendship.’ In 2013, 2013 Both countries sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation of Developing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Long-term Plan and Actions, opening the flow of Chinese FDI and investment into Pakistan.
Pakistan hope that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), being developed under CPEC, will rejuvenate Pakistan’s process of industrialization and further spur economic development.
Pandemic – Pak China Assistance
• China and Pakistan have worked together to tackle risks and challenges such as COVID-19, consolidating strategic mutual trust and deepening strategic cooperation. At the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, Pakistan immediately dispatched essential medical supplies to China to support its fight against COVID-19. The President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, travelled to Beijing in March 2020 to express solidarity with the people and the government of China.
When the pandemic was spreading in Pakistan, China assisted Pak generously. A team of Chinese medical experts visited Pakistan on special instructions of President Xi. Over 60 planeloads of relief goods were dispatched to Pakistan and a medical team was sent by the PLA to assist us in containing the COVID-19.
Pakistan backed President Xi’s declaration that the COVID-19 vaccine, when developed, should be a “global public good.” Pakistan is thankful to Beijing for providing Sinopharm and Can Sino vaccines to protect the lives of our people. The people of Pakistan will always remember this fraternal gesture.
China is our largest trade and investment, partner. Bilateral trade has grown manifolds over the years and Pakistan needs to tap the trade potential to its optimal level. China has a huge market for agricultural, dairy, poultry, fishery and meat products. Pakistan and China are working on a comprehensive Action Plan on Agriculture.
China is one of the leaders in the field of science and technology in the world. We want to deepen our cooperation in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other cutting-edge realms. CPFTA-II became operational on 1st January, whereas Pakistan may enjoy better access to the Chinese market.
Deepening Traditional Defence Cooperation
Wide-ranging defence cooperation between Pakistan and China has been at the core of the bilateral relationship for decades. Defence cooperation has deepened to complement CPEC, particularly, in the maritime and counter-terrorism domain. The bilateral defence relationship can be gauged from the fact that at present China is the source of more than 70% of Pakistan’s cumulative arms import.
Arms imports from China peaked in 2016 when they reached almost 83%. This shows Pakistan’s deepening dependence on China as a reliable source of defence procurement. Meanwhile, data also shows that Pakistan is the major recipient (around 35%) of China’s arms exports. Pak China’s strong defence cooperation includes high-level military exchanges, structured defence and security talks, joint exercises, training of personnel in each other’s institutions, joint defence production, and defence trade.
The bilateral collaboration has expanded to the transfer of technology, joint production and regular sharing of emerging Chinese advances in military technologies. An example of successful collaboration is the JF-17 combat aircraft, jointly produced by both countries. JF-17 is becoming the mainstay of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) that is now being manufactured in Pakistan.
Collaboration is continuing on designing and producing an advanced version with improved avionics capability of the aircraft. Similarly, Pakistan Navy (PN) has collaborated with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its associated partners as part of its fleet modernisation and expansion plans.
Since 2013, PN has taken delivery of three Azmat Class Fast Attack Crafts (Missile Boats). These speed boats have been constructed on a transfer of technology basis. In April 2015, Pakistan concluded an agreement for procuring eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, with four to be built in China and the remaining four in Karachi.
In 2017 and 2018, Pakistan signed contracts for the construction of four T054A frigates to be delivered by 2021. These guided-missile frigates are capable of conducting a variety of anti-surface and anti-air warfare missions. Pakistan Army has also augmented its air defence capabilities by inducting LY-80 Low-to-Medium Altitude Air Defence System. It enables Pakistan to track and destroy incoming missiles aimed at counter-force targets at low and medium altitudes.
Aside from conventional military equipment, Pakistani and Chinese militaries have also been collaborating in jointly manufacturing armed drones. In October 2018, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group concluded a transfer of technology agreement under which Pakistan will procure 48 armed drones called Wing Loong-II. Also, in future, both countries will also jointly manufacture drones.
Revamped Military Exercises
As a testimony of close defence ties, both countries regularly hold military exercises. A new system of exercises commenced in 2012. It included annual exercises of special forces, naval forces and air forces. Joint training enables the armed forces of both countries to hone their operational preparedness and foster closer coordination when operating together.
Pak China Cultural Relations
Another significant and promising aspect of our multi-faceted bilateral relationship is the growth of people-to-people and cultural relations. Currently, over 28,000 Pakistani students are studying in China, benefiting from China’s advanced educational system. Pakistan established seven sister-province and thirteen sister-city relationships with China.
Seven Pakistan study centres, eleven Urdu language departments in various Chinese universities, and four Confucius Institutes in Pakistan are promoting cultural understanding between the two countries.
Global Nuclear Politics and Bilateral Cooperation
In recent years, Pakistan and China have deepened their historically close nuclear and strategic cooperation. Since 2013, Islamabad and Beijing have undertaken extensive cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. Chinese civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan provided the Chinese nuclear industry with an opportunity to present its emerging advances in nuclear reactor technology to the wider world through the Pakistani platform.
Consequently, both countries concluded agreements on the construction of two nuclear power plants based on the ACP-1000 design each with a generation capacity of 1100 MWs in Pakistan in 2013. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is providing extensive assistance in the construction and finance (US$6.5 billion out of US$9.59 billion) of two power plants being built in Karachi.
Science and Technology Cooperation
The bilateral cooperation in the science and technology arena has been expanded, particularly, in the space sector. In 2012, Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) agreed to a 2012-2020 programme for joint cooperation. Under this programme in 2013, Pakistan adopted Beidou, China’s indigenous satellite navigation system, for military applications. These included access to satellite imagery, precision-guided targeting, tracking of enemy forces, deployments and equipment.
A base station has been constructed in Karachi with the goal to ensure coverage of the whole territory of Pakistan. In November 2018, China launched a new satellite Beidou-3, an enhanced version with the goal to rival America’s Global Positioning System (GPS). In 2016, Pakistan and China inked an agreement to develop and launch Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1) system aimed at civilian and defence applications. Two years later in July 2018, PRSS-1 and a domestically developed Pakistan Technology Evaluation Satellite-1A (PakTES-1A) were launched into orbit with assistance from China.
In March 2018, SUPARCO concluded an agreement with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) to jointly manufacture and launch a communication satellite (Paksat-MM1). In the interim, a satellite has been put into orbit to serve as a stopgap measure. These satellites are contributing to socio-economic development; meeting national security requirements of the country and opening new vistas in space technology development in Pakistan.
Both Pakistan and China are tied together by a common vision to change the destiny of our region and wean it away from conflict and ideological dogmatism to one that promotes peace, development and prosperity. Pakistan remains committed to building a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era aimed at further reinforcing our deep-rooted ties.
Under the new circumstances, the two countries should stand together even more firmly and push forward the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, building a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.