All weather diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan were formally established on May 21, 1951. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to accept People’s Republic of China. Cordial relations between two states are not only termed as higher than Himalayas, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey but both sides equally acknowledge this element of trust on each other. As responsible neighbours, both China and Pakistan always maintain well-coordinated, appropriately communicated and balanced approach on regional and international concerning issues. Apart from matters of mutual interest Pakistan supports China on the issues of Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang while China has always appreciated Pak role in war against terrorism other than supporting it economically. To fortify diplomatic relations between the two states, several exchange visits of leaders and high officials on both sides take place frequently.
Consolidating diplomatic relations, Pak China cooperation takes place in various fields. China has supported Pakistan a lot in defence sector. It has extended military support to all three armed forces of Pakistan. Either it’s setting up of PAF Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, Heavy Industries Taxila, production of several ammunition at POF or maritime assistance for projects of Pakistan Navy, China always stood side by side with Pakistan. Joint venture of manufacturing of JF-17 Thunder aircrafts at PAC Kamra is one of shining example of defence cooperation between two countries. Apart from PAC, HIT, Pakistan Steel Mill and contribution at missile factories it intends to provide Pakistan Navy with submarines and upgradation of frigates. China is one of major supporter of Pakistan’s nuclear power generation for peaceful purposes.
China is Pakistan’s second largest trade partner and foreseeing as one of largest investment opportunity in South Asia, China’s investment in Pakistan has reached to 18 billion US dollars. Trade volume in last fifteen years between two countries has developed from 5.7 billion US dollars to 100.11 billion US dollars. Both countries signed the contracts of worth 150.8 billion dollars from year 2000 to 2015 which started off from just 1.8 billion dollars. China has invested in Pakistan massively, than any other country and the renowned British economist, Jims O Neil, has also predicted the emerging of Pakistan as the 18th global economy with US$ 3.3 trillion GDP by 2050.
One of the mega projects of 46 billion US dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is viewed as game changer in the region is going to cover energy, infrastructure, communication and other developmental sectors. Work on CPEC is carried out day and night to give reality to the Chinese vision of One Belt, One Road concept. CPEC is all-inclusive growth programme that requires the linking of Gwadar Port to China’s north-western region of Xinjiang through highways, railways, oil and gas pipelines, and an optical fibre link.
Adversaries of Pakistan have always created problems for the projects encompassing economic progress of the state through hostile attempts. That is why CPEC remain a focus of sabotage activities. A loud and clear message was given by Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Shareef in a seminar on Gwadar on 12 April, 2016 stating that CPEC is grand manifestation of deep rooted ties between China and Pakistan and it’s a corridor of peace and prosperity for region. Apart from over 120 Chinese companies and 12,000 skilled technicians working on different projects, Pakistan has established a special force army to provide security to Chinese workers. China seems to have more confidence into Pak Army and therefore construction projects of building roads, strategically important bridges and highways are handed over to Frontier Works Organization, one of Pak Army branch.
Apart from people to people contact both countries are also focusing on cultural exchange programs and offering scholarships to students. To ensure peace in region China is also part of Quadrilateral Dialogue Process along with Pakistan. While celebrating 65 years of Pak China acquaintance, it is expected that in coming years both countries will continue to robust their strategic and political bond proving this connexion stronger than steel.
— The writer works for an Islamabad based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.