A historic visit | By Muhammad Zahid Rifat


A historic visit

THE friendliest relations among any two countries around the world between People’s Republic of China and Pakistan are based on mutual trust, confidence, cooperation, assistance as well as unanimity of views on major international and regional issues and concerns.

These relations are going to be further promoted, strengthened and deepened following Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s maiden official visit to China in the first week of November 2022.

The two-day official visit was Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s first visit after assuming the high office and had taken place at the personal invitation of President Xi Jinping who had invited him to visit China immediately after the 20 National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

During the short two-day visit, Premier Shehbaz met President Xi Jinping and held talks with the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, Li Zhanshu.

This was President Xi’s second meeting with PM Shehbaz Sharif in less than two months. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif went through a hectic schedule of meetings and engagements during the short visit which can easily be described as quite historic one on the short and long term bases.

Following the visit a comprehensive joint statement was issued by the two sides. During the visit a number of agreements/MoUs were signed or concluded in the areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural product, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property, infrastructure, flood relief, post-disaster reconstruction, Global Development Initiative (GDI), animal disease control, livelihood, cultural cooperation, space, geosciences as well as law enforcement and security.

The PM was accompanied by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb among others who signed these documents details of which will become in due course as these are given practical shape one after the other by the official quarters concerned of both the countries.

PM Shehbaz Sharif felicitated President XI on his re-election as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, commended his contribution toward continued growth of Pak-China relations and invited him to visit Pakistan.

Accepting the invitation, the Chinese President said that he would visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.

The two leaders also pledged to continue working together to further deepen the bilateral ties between the two countries.

Pakistani and Chinese leaders held in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral relations as well as regional situation and international political landscape.

Both the sides agreed on the importance of China-Pakistan All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership amidst the emerging global challenges.

Meetings between the visiting Pakistani Premier and Chinese leaders were quite obviously and expectedly marked by traditional warmth, mutual strategic trust and commonality of views.

The leaders firmly reaffirmed that close strategic ties and profound friendship between China and Pakistan was time-tested and resilient, the friendship was a historic choice of both peoples that serves the interests of the two countries.

The Chinese side reiterated that relations with Pakistan will always be given the highest priority in its foreign policy.

The Pakistani side underscored that the Pak-China relationship was the cornerstone of its foreign policy and that the Pakistani people always supported the closest friendship between the two countries.

The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the two sides reiterated that a peaceful and prosperous South Asia was in the interest of all parties, the Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue should be properly and peacefully resolved on the basis of the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.

On Afghanistan, the two sides agreed that peaceful, prosperous, inter-connected and stable Afghanistan was fundamental to regional prosperity and progress.

China and Pakistan also underscored the need for the international community to provide continued assistance and support to Afghanistan including through unfreezing of Afghanistan’s overseas financial assets and agreed to continue their humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people as well as enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan including through CPEC’s extension to Afghanistan.

The Pakistani side expressed support for the Global Development Initiative and also for the Global Security Initiative put forward by the Chinese side.

The uniqueness of two countries’ closest friendly relations lie in the strong support of practical cooperation underpinned by the great game changer China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was playing a leading role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As many as 47 projects have either been launched or completed with a total investment of more than $ 25 billion and a large number of 150000 jobs already created.

The 11th CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) was virtually held on October 27 laying a strong foundation for the visit by the Pakistani Premier and the leaders of the two countries reached important and much needed consensus on the ML-1 project for its early completion.

China has also agreed to actively advance the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and encourage Chinese enterprises to participate in solar and other renewable projects in Pakistan In the first phase of CPEC, China will also be stepping up cooperation in industry, agriculture, science and technology in order to better serve Pakistan’s industrialization and enhance its export competitiveness, new concepts like health corridor, industrial corridor, digital corridor and green corridor will also become important part of the high-quality development of CPEC, as per the agreement reached between the two sides.

The year 2023 will usher in the China-Pakistan Year of Tourism and Exchange and the Gandhara Art Exhibition will be held at the Palace Museum showcasing Pakistan’s diverse culture and long history of interaction with China, according to the joint statement.

Massive destruction caused by unprecedented heaviest rains and deadliest historical floods in Pakistan and ongoing relief and rehabilitation of the large number of affected people in the country also figured during the talks between Pakistani and Chinese leaders.

China announced an extra 500 million Yuan emergency aid for post-disaster reconstruction bringing the total aid to 1.16 billion Yuan (Rs 36 billion) thus ranking first among other countries.

As already mentioned above, the Prime Minister’s visit was quite historical, successful and productive and the outcome of the visit will be becoming visible much sooner than expected as the leadership of the two countries will be pursuing the decisions, agreements and other concerned matters at the appropriate level respectively to ensure the desired fruits rising from the visit reach the people of Pakistan at the earliest possible without obstacles and hindrances.

—The writer is a retired Deputy Controller (News), Radio Pakistan, based in Lahore.


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