National and International Issues

Pakistan-China Celebrating 70 Years of All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership

May 21, 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China. This special occasion celebrates the unique strategic cooperative partnership and the great achievements the two countries have made together in the last 70 years. It is also an opportunity to renew the resolve to build upon the past achievements and help shape our common destiny for a peaceful future. 


Friendship between Pakistan and China was forged in the crucible of time and has gone beyond the traditional parameters of bilateral relationship. It has now transformed into an ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ thereby, setting a new model for inter-state relations in world politics. Successive generations of leaders and people of the two countries have made valuable contributions to strengthening this timeless bond of mutual respect, trust and understanding. 



Pakistan becomes the third non-communist country, and the first Muslim one, to recognize the People's Republic of China and dispatched a high level delegation to Beijing on January 4, 1950. However formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on May 21, 1951 thus starting a journey of cooperation and friendship that has remained solid for the last 70 years. 1955 marked another watershed in the history of this bilateral relationship with the visit of Vice President Madam Song Ching Ling to Pakistan – the first high level visit from Chinese side paving the way for the establishment of a long term strategic partnership with Pakistan. This gesture of friendship was reciprocated by Pakistan with the 1956 visit of Prime Minister H. S. Suhrawardy to Beijing, the first high level visit from Pakistan. Foundations of this early friendship were cemented with the 1963 historic visit of Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Beijing and the signing of the boundary agreement through friendly and peaceful negotiations. Today Pakistan is the only country in China’s neighborhood that has never had any difference of opinion or border dispute with China.
Following the laying of strong and stable foundations of Pakistan-China relations in 1963, Pakistan International Airlines became the first international airline of a non-communist country to start commercial operations to China. For decades, Karachi served as China’s gateway to the world with generations of Chinese transiting through Karachi airport to go to the West. It is equally significant to remember that Pakistan, using its good relations with the USA, became the window for America to reach out to China heralding the end of an era of isolation for China. In 1970 Pakistan facilitated the first visit by U.S. President Nixon to Beijing, paving way for the first ever U.S.-China official contact, a gesture which to date is deeply appreciated by China.       
Pakistan-China ties are an unmistakable evidence of the fact that long-term interstate relations are not merely the result of convergence of interests but draw real strength from complete trust and understanding at the leadership level; mutual respect, and feelings of affection and love at the public level. The bedrock of our bilateral relations is a strong faith and trust in each other that both the countries have nurtured with care and devotion.


China is leading our collective efforts to protect and promote multilateralism and the UN charter and the UN’s peace, security and development agenda. Its efforts for regional economic interdependence are likely to overcome geographical constraints for sustainable socio-economic growth and stability for the world. President Xi is a great “thought-leader” of our times. BRI and CPEC are a testament to the resolve of “leaving no one behind”. It is an agenda to promote human dignity and prosperity through development, to build a “community with a shared future for mankind”. Pakistan shares this dream of a stable and prosperous region and the world with China.


Pakistan’s relation with China has never been a transactional one. This is the only relationship that has consistently maintained an upward trajectory. From the very beginning and particularly since the 1960s, the two countries began to forge a close relationship of understanding that has been remarkably constant despite the vicissitudes of momentous changes in the domestic and international politics both at the regional and global level. This relationship has withstood the test of time and continues to demonstrate incredible stability and retaining its strategic quality. Pakistan and China have stood by each other through good and bad times supporting each other bilaterally and in the international arena. It is important to remember that Pakistan played an important role in ensuring that the People’s Republic of China takes its rightful place at the United Nations. Over the last 70 years Pakistan has firmly supported the One-China principle and similarly, China has consistently supported Pakistan on all its core issues including Kashmir.
Friendship between Pakistan and China was forged in the crucible of time and has gone beyond the traditional parameters of bilateral relationship. It has now transformed into an ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ thereby, setting a new model for inter-state relations in world politics. Successive generations of leaders and people of the two countries have made valuable contributions to strengthening this timeless bond of mutual respect, trust and understanding. 
The linkages between what is today’s Pakistan and China predate the establishment of our diplomatic relations on May 21, 1951. The history of cultural exchanges and people to people contacts spans several millenniums. Frequent exchange of goods, ideas and values between the ancient civilizations of our two nations have existed since times immemorial. Over 2000 years ago, when Gandhara Buddhist Civilization flourished, famous Chinese scholars, monks, and sages including Xuan Zang and Fa Xien braved the treacherous mountains and scorching deserts and arrived at the famous Buddhist seminaries in Taxila and Swat to seek spirituality and wisdom and to study Buddhist scriptures. These travels are celebrated in the famous Chinese novel, ‘Xi You Ji’ or Journey to the West. One of the important founders of Tibetan Buddhism, Sambabava, belonged to Swat Valley. They brought back to China with them not only the light of faith and knowledge but also the warmth and passion of friendship which underpins our wide-ranging bilateral engagements today. 
Cultures are born in the cradle of civilizations. Over the period of time, the political fortunes and strength of countries may rise and fall but the cultural values finding expression in philosophy, religion, music, art and architecture assume permanence. There is a natural affinity between the cultures of Pakistan and China. Our two countries boast ancient civilizational roots which have fashioned the modern-day cultural tapestry of our respective nations. Our cultural ethos is replenished by Asian values, strengthened by historical continuity and mellowed by a spiritual and tolerant outlook.
Pakistan-China economic cooperation also has a stable strong history. Important projects like the Karakoram Highway, Gwadar Port, Heavy Mechanical Complex, Heavy Forge and Foundry, Chashma Nuclear Power Plants, Sports Complex in Islamabad and joint production of JF-17 among other projects are outstanding examples of Pakistan-China cooperation. Both countries are now determined to leverage their natural economic complementarity, conferred by geographical proximity and close friendship, for the progress and prosperity of their people. Economically, China is today Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major investor, especially in infrastructure and energy sector. Despite the excellent relations, the bilateral trade between Pakistan and China was not commensurate with the political relationship. With the operationalization of the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement in 2020, the bilateral trade is set to increase further reaching its full potential. 
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an integral part of BRI and is its flagship project. It is inspired by President Xi’s vision of regional connectivity and people-centric development model which fully resonates with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of “Naya Pakistan”, who firmly believes that CPEC is a “game-changer” not only for Pakistan but the entire region. Connecting Gwadar Port to China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region through a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport goods, technology, oil and gas, presents enormous opportunities to people from Gwadar to Kashgar. 
CPEC as the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative is the unmistakable symbol of this enduring friendship and occupies a pivotal position in the development agenda of Pakistan. CPEC has immense strategic significance for Pakistan and has already helped Pakistan lay a strong energy and road infrastructure for subsequent development of industry, agriculture and human resource. The ever-increasing economic and trade integration between Pakistan and China has made the two economies increasingly inter-dependent, especially in the context of CPEC which is a long-term bilateral economic project encompassing a vast array of short, medium and long-term projects.
CPEC is a revival of the ancient Silk route and has become a hallmark of deep friendship between Pakistan and China from 1951 to date. With CPEC and BRI, Pakistan and China have started a new chapter of friendship that has great potential to contribute to regionalism and mutually beneficial cooperation. Together they envisage creating an enabling environment for collective prosperity to promote regional economic integration and cooperation with this mega-project.
President Xi Jinping very rightly described Pakistan-China ties as a relationship between two iron brothers. For Pakistan, China is not just a friend but a very dear family member. Pakistan, irrespective of which political party is in power, has full consensus on our relationship with China in all its dimensions, including the CPEC project. 
Prime Minister Imran Khan has on several occasions stated that the CPEC is the number one priority project as far as the government of Pakistan is concerned and our leadership has repeatedly said that we will do everything to ensure that it is completed on time. With the first phase of CPEC comprising major infrastructure and energy projects completed, the focus has rightly shifted to the second phase. This includes the development of Special Economic Zones, sustainable development, poverty alleviation, agriculture, healthcare and knowledge  
As Iron Brothers, closest partners and reliable friends, both countries are determined to stand by each other and face the ongoing changes in the geo-economic and geostrategic arena with firm resolve and dignity. Our friendship is time-tested and historic. Like our borders and our hearts, our destinies are linked. 


In the early phase of viral pandemic when China was in throes of rapid infection rate and mounting number of mortalities, Pakistan extended utmost material and moral support to our Iron Brother. Pakistan literally sent its entire stock of PPEs to China to help it control the pandemic, a gesture reciprocated in full measure by the Chinese side when the pandemic finally hit Pakistan. This show of support in difficult times resonated well not only at the government and party level but left a deep impression on the hearts and minds of the ordinary Chinese. The social and mass media was replete with praises and gratitude towards Pakistan, calling it a ‘True Friend’ as opposed to those who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to malign, stigmatize and isolate China.


In the past 70 years, China has tremendously transformed from a poor developing country to the world’s second largest economy. In the process of opening-up and reform, China has lifted 800 million people out of poverty, a feat never before achieved in human history by any state. It has restored the dignity of its people with the provision of basic needs such as clean drinking water, decent work, housing and education.
Moreover, it has become a center of R&D, innovation and tech-advancement going towards high-quality products. It is the global champion of “the peoples and the planet” with its leadership in UN’s climate-change agenda and South-South cooperation. As one of the five permanent members of UN Security Council, Pakistan highly appreciates China’s continued efforts for an equitable and just rule-based global system.
China is leading our collective efforts to protect and promote multilateralism and the UN Charter and the UN’s peace, security and development agenda. Its efforts for regional economic interdependence are likely to overcome geographical constraints for sustainable socio-economic growth and stability for the world. President Xi is a great “thought-leader” of our times. BRI and CPEC are a testament to the resolve of “leaving no one behind”. It is an agenda to promote human dignity and prosperity through development, to build a “community with a shared future for mankind”. Pakistan shares this dream of a stable and prosperous region and the world with China.
It must be emphasized that in recent times COVID-19 pandemic, a serious global crisis as it may be, has brought Pakistan and China even closer. In his meeting with President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi in March 2020, President Xi Jinping beautifully summed up our bilateral cooperation during the pandemic when he remarked, “Fire is the test of gold”. Just as fire is the test of gold, Pakistan-China friendship has emerged from the furnace of COVID-19 stronger and more resilient. 
In the early phase of the viral pandemic when China was in throes of rapid infection rate and mounting number of mortalities, Pakistan extended utmost material and moral support to our Iron Brother. Pakistan literally sent its entire stock of PPEs to China to help it control the pandemic, a gesture reciprocated in full measure by the Chinese side when the pandemic finally hit Pakistan. This show of support in difficult times resonated well not only at the government and party level but left a deep impression on the hearts and minds of the ordinary Chinese. The social and mass media was replete with praises and gratitude towards Pakistan, calling it a ‘True Friend’ as opposed to those who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to malign, stigmatize and isolate China.
At the peak of COVID-19 crisis, when other countries, particularly the Western and Asian countries, were busy in mass evacuation of their citizens, Pakistan made a deliberate and conscious decision not to evacuate its nationals including the thousands of students from Hubei, Wuhan and other cities. Pakistan was confident that Chinese government would take excellent care of our students as President Xi Jinping had promised that they would treat the Pakistani students like ‘their own’ and they did, providing our students every possible assistance and facilitation. While Hubei province and its capital Wuhan were under complete lockdown, the Chinese government as a gesture of goodwill and in keeping with the tradition of friendship, accorded special permission to Pakistan to send a two-member team from our Embassy to Wuhan to support our nationals, especially our students. Due to the special attention of the Chinese government given to Pakistani nationals, we did not lose even a single national to COVID-19 in China.
Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan visited China at the peak of COVID-19 crisis to express Pakistan’s solidarity with our Chinese brothers and sisters. During his meeting with President Alvi President Xi cited a Chinese proverb that informally translated in English would mean,‘If you give me a drop of water in need, I will return you a whole spring.’
True to his words, once China emerged as the only country to have comprehensively controlled the pandemic, Chinese people and government responded by extending complete support to reinforce Pakistan’s preventive and curative measures against COVID-19. China had received requests from more than 100 countries for the provision of critical supplies but Chinese leadership and state institutions prioritized Pakistan’s urgent medical needs. A virtual air bridge was set up between China and Pakistan to airlift teams of medical professionals and relief assistance including an overwhelming number of X–Ray machines, thermal scanners, face masks, ventilators, testing kits and other PPEs, donated by Chinese government, Chinese enterprises, humanitarian organizations and private individuals.
The viral infection tested the effectiveness of Chinese political system, endurance of Chinese economy and resolve and determination of Chinese people. Chinese government took immediate and effective steps to contain the spread of endemic to other regions of China. These steps were necessary to contain the viral infection and keep it from becoming a global pandemic.
COVID-19 pandemic was also a test for Pakistan and China’s friendship. As an Iron Brother and most reliable partner, Pakistan decided to stand by China in this hour of crisis and offered utmost help and assistance to our Chinese brethren to fight this pandemic. In a show of unanimous support and sympathy with China, Pakistan did not evacuate its students from Wuhan and Hubei province. President and Prime Minister of Pakistan wrote letters of support to their Chinese counterparts and both houses of Parliament of Pakistan passed resolutions expressing firm support and solidarity with Chinese people and government. China and Pakistan would always find in each other a most reliable partner, iron brother and trusted friend not only amid the tides of peace and prosperity, but also in storms of turmoil and turbulence as evidenced from the unrelenting support the two countries have given to each other over the last 70 years.
The historical development of China-Pakistan relations made in the past 70 years are marked with deep political trust, mutual respect, fraternal linkages passed on from generation to generation, good neighborliness and tradition of peaceful co-existence. Irrespective of the internal and external political developments each successive government has echoed the political and popular sentiment of Pakistan-China friendship being unshakable, iron-clad, unique “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” and resolve to enhance the cherished bonds that have withstood the test of time to new heights. 
Looking at the future, a more robust, inclusive and all-encompassing relations between Pakistan and China would not only serve the best interest of our two countries but would also ensure peace and stability for the entire region. Both Pakistan and China are cognizant of the new and emerging challenges within and arising from economic-political and geo-strategic realignments.  In view of these developments, both countries should aim to build a closer and more meaningful Pakistan-China Community of Shared Future in the New Era in line with the principles set forth by the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-neighbourly Relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan signed in 2005, the Joint Statement of November 2018 and other bilateral documents focusing on long-term development of relations.
Pakistan and China are both aware of their respective national challenges, and external variables in the form of global threats including unanticipated military conflicts, global recessions or financial crises, disruptions in energy supply lines, or determined efforts by countries, individually or within broad coalitions, to halt regional and inter-regional connectivity through BRI, coupled with unilateralism, protectionism and unilateral coercive measures. Pakistan and China are also mindful of the common regional issues such as widespread unemployment, changes in rainfall patterns and river flows, sea level rise, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers that feed most Asian continental river systems, and the increasing scarcity of the fresh water resources and should try to cooperate in these areas to address these issues.
In view of the above, it is important that both countries aim to raise the existing level of “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” to new heights with comprehensive regional and global partnership and strategic interaction and alignment, to meet the challenges of the New Era, while adhering to the development goals and aspirations of the two people through a comprehensive and forward looking plan of action. 
Pakistan-China friendship has evolved over the past seven decades from good neighbors and friends into strategic partners based on practical cooperation. We have developed a well-rounded relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Today, we truly are “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative” partners and each other’s strength, as President Xi calls us “Iron Brothers”. In the coming decades, our strong bilateral ties will continue to synergize with emerging regional and global trends for sustainable development and lasting peace.






























 

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