Mohammed Arifeen : Editor-at-Large: The Financial Daily

70 years of Pakistan-China relationship are 70 years of growing together. Seventy years of unprecedented bilateral friendship and strong diplomatic relations are all weather strategic cooperative partnership based on mutual trust, respect and goodwill between Pakistan and China, which began on May 21, 1951. During this long period, many global political, diplomatic and economic inequalities and ups and downs have been created by many powers.
Terrorism was imposed in conspiracies to weaken the established economy. The United States, India, and Israel have waged terrible diplomatic, political, and economic wars, but our tried and trusted neighbor, China, has never allowed Pakistan to be isolated.
Many significant defence strengthening projects and CPEC’ s greatest multi-mega flagship project of China’s Belt and Road initiative are 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 its impact in all walks of life.
Pak-China diplomatic friendship will continue to expand at the same pace. Chairman Mao Zedong, Chuan Lai and President Xi Jinping have nurtured this friendship in such a wide and strong relationship and friendship that in every era, this relationship has grown and matured.
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 always defended Pakistan’s rights at the international level.
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-China relationship cannot be understood by applying conventional theories or conceptual frameworks of diplomacy and international relation. The relationship is unique, wide-ranging and encompasses all fields of life. It is based on two inimitable ingredients, love and care, which scarce commodities in international relation are.
The journey of relationship started right after the establishment of China. The strong footing was provided by the first interaction between Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra and Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in 1955 at the Non-alignment conference. Muhammad Ali Bogra is considered the mastermind from Pakistani side to steer the relationship.
The economic cooperation started way back in 1952 through a trade transaction of US$ 86 million (Pakistani export US$84 million). The trade agreement in 1963 was second major event. It was also important because it was signed right after the boundary agreement. Along the course of time, Pakistan and China kept on signing agreements on cooperation in different sectors like agreement on cultural cooperation 1965, science and cultural cooperation 1976 and education exchanges 1983 etc.
China also provided Pakistan different types of grants and loans. First loan of US$ 60 million was provided in 1965. Pakistan was also offered loans of US$ 217 million during the period of 1970-75. China also provided the textile machinery to promote textile industry. Pakistan and China always keep on looking for avenue to enhance cooperation. The cooperation is always followed the principle of win-win cooperation.
The major milestone on economic front was achieved in 1989. Pakistan-China signed an agreement of “promotion and protection of investments” to enhance the investment and economic cooperation. It led to first major investment in Pakistan from China. Huawei in 1998 opened its operations in Pakistan. Since then it is leading player in the field of technology.
It is also one of the major taxpayers, as it paid US$ 43 million in 2018. It is also contributing in job creation and employed 16000+ Pakistanis. The indirect contribution in job market is also substantial and it contributed 25000 indirect jobs.
Haier Pakistan was next company to invest in Pakistan. It started its operations in 2001. It gave a new dimension to home appliances industry in Pakistan. It has created thousands of the job and opportunities for Pakistanis.
Zong Pakistan, which is part of China mobile, is a big name in telecommunication market of Pakistan. It has revolutionized the mobile communication in Pakistan. It is biggest provider of data services and PTA highlighted that the Zong hold 55 percent share. It is also leading player of 4-G services. The investment of Zong has reached the level of US$ 2.2 billion in 2018, which is on increasing mode.
It is also believed among wider community that the investment agreement of 1989, also paved the way for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
As, right after the signing the agreement both countries started to enhance cooperation in multiple economic fields. Government and non-government entities started to investment in Pakistan. Both governments also started to finalize trade agreements, energy cooperation, agriculture collaboration and science and technology cooperation. High level exchanges between the countries started to put more efforts to finalize different economic agreements.
Howbeit, the real impetus was provided by the Beijing Declaration, which was signed by President Musharraf and President Hu Jintao in 2003 in Beijing. In 2004 Pakistan and China signed preferential trade agreement to foster the trade. Simultaneously Pakistan and China started to negotiate the free trade agreement which concluded with signing the first FTA. President Musharraf again visited China in 2006 and signed multiple MoUs.
President Hu Jintao visited Pakistan in 2006 and both countries agreed to enhance cooperation in diverse fields. The visit ended with signing two landmark agreements 1) Free Trade Agreement and 2) Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation. In 2009, both countries also signed the FTA on services.
Pakistan and China kept on working closely to enhance the cooperation. In 2013, Prime Minister Li Keqiang of China visited Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Li Keqiang finalized the comprehensive framework of economic cooperation. In 2015, President Xi Jinping came on state visit to Pakistan. He started his visit by declaring Pakistan and China iron brother.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was launched during his visit. It is a multidimensional initiative, which has been designed by keeping in mind the needs of Pakistan. Pakistan and China jointly developed the long-term plan of CPEC. The long-term plan includes (1) Connectivity (2) Energy (3) Trade and industrial parks (4) Agriculture development and poverty alleviation (5) Tourism (6) Cooperation in connecting people’s livelihoods and non-government exchanges (7) and Financial cooperation. The second free trade agreement was also signed in 2019. The focus of agreement is to create special opportunities to enhance trade.
Pakistan and China even continued to enhance cooperation during the COVID-19, when whole world was on hold. In March 2020, during the visit of President Arif Alvi, both countries signed two MoUs; (1) Agriculture Cooperation and (2) Science and Technology Cooperation. Agriculture MoU includes in (1) technology transfer (2) capacity building for R&D (3) trade development (4) agro-industry (5) business development (6) livestock and dairy industry development. Science and Technology MoU has been signed by keeping in sight the fourth industrial revolution and needs of Pakistan. Both countries are still working to enhance the cooperation.
The analysis of cooperation highlights few important things. First, economic cooperation always remained the prime area of focus between two countries. It is pertinent to mention here this because the opponents always tried to ignore the economic dimension and try to only focus on security cooperation. Second, Pakistan and China always keep on looking for avenue to enhance cooperation. Third, the cooperation was always followed the principle of win-win cooperation. Fourth, diversification is important element.
As China continue to grow, China continued to enhance investment in Pakistan, to help Pakistan to grow. First glimpse came in 1989, which culminated with signing of CPEC in 2015. Now, Pakistan is one major investment hub for China. The investment is being designed to help Pakistan to come out of economic crises and emerge as a stable and economically sound country.
In March 2021, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China “Iron Brothers” kicked off the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. Both countries began their celebrations with a virtual ceremony in Islamabad and Beijing respectively and plan to celebrate it until date of May 21, 2021.
Since the ancient time, Pakistan and China have had historical, geographical and ancient juxtapositions, along with deep ties. The abbots of ancient China, as well as the penitents, i.e. “Faxian and Xuznanag”, went to the illustrious “Buddhist” academies of Pakistan with the aim of learning the customs, norms, values and the teachings of “Buddhism”. In contemporary historical environment, the month of May of the year 1951 was a central and significant moment in the modern history of Pakistan and also of China, when both countries inaugurated their bilateral diplomatic relations and sowed the seeds of profound bilateral political and economic relations.
Pakistan’s first national flag carrier named “PIA (Pakistan International Airlines)” began its flight to the People’s Republic of China in 1964. The final agreement was signed by foreign ministers Chen Yi for the Chinese side and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the Pakistani side. The deal was moderately profitable for Pakistan, but of great political significance, as it reduced the potential for conflict between China and Pakistan.
The then Pakistani foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, played a decisive role in bringing Pakistan and China closer and in overturning their relationship which would later become a “maxim” in international relations.
On the Kargil crisis, however, China has maintained absolute neutrality by emphasizing a bilateral resolution of the issue through dialogue. Shortly after the Kargil incident in late 2001, Indo-Pakistani tensions escalated again, bringing the two nuclear rivals to the brink of war. On this occasion, China urged both Pakistan and India to resolve their dispute by peaceful means.
China has adopted multi-channel diplomacy to defuse tension. It stressed the need for the international community to adopt a more balanced and impartial approach to the problem.
Despite U.S strategic convergence and growing support to India’s role at the regional and global level, China remains calm and self-confident. China-Pakistan relations are based on mutual interests and they seem destined to grow.
Crawling towards more trustworthy relations, almost 28,000 Pakistani students are studying in China at different levels including MBBS, Engineering, Undergraduate’s, and Master’s and Doctorate students.