China-Pak iron-clad friendship’s new strategic path | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan

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China-Pak iron-clad friendship’s new strategic path

MOST recently, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited China and met with leaders and high officials of China.

A joint statement was also issued covering all aspects of new “Strategic Path” of China-Pak iron-clad friendship ranging from early initiation of CPEC Phase-II, close liaison in “Human Right” issue, active participation in global development governance, transition towards “Green Energy”, “Climate Change”, modernization of rails and last but not the least, further strengthening of global development initiative cooperation.

In this connection, China and Pakistan agreed to make joint integrated efforts for the further strengthening of the level of all-round strategic cooperation and inject new impetus into their all-weather “strategic cooperative partnership”.

Prime Minister Sharif termed his maiden visit as “testament of the profound, iron-clad friendship” between Pakistan and China and deepening Pakistan’s all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with China is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy and the national consensus of Pakistan.

The two sides should make full use of the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), advance CPEC with greater efficiency, and make CPEC an exemplar of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, he said.

Prime minister noted that CPEC has had a profound impact on Pakistan’s economic and social development and showed Pakistan’s readiness to work with China to continue promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

The CPEC has become a landmark of China-Pakistan cooperation. It has effectively increased the pace of socio-economic development, generated new jobs and produced multiplier socioeconomic effects in Pakistan.

The recent 11th meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC has transformed the “Sacred Tale” of China-Pak friendship into a new strategic path of modernization, green revolution, climate change mitigation, water conservation, high speed rail system, greater regional connectivity and last but not the least, information technology.

In this regard, multiple common understandings and mutually befitting propositions, programs and projects were approved and signed about CPEC’s future development.

The two countries also agreed to expand cooperation in digital economy, e-commerce, photovoltaic and other new-energy technologies as well as advance cooperation concerning agriculture, science, technology and people’s livelihood which is good omen for accelerating the national economy of Pakistan and industry alike.

China has been Pakistan’s largest trade and investment partner, the largest exporter and the second largest importer for six consecutive fiscal years since 2015.

Moreover, China has also become the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Pakistan which shows its holistic spirits towards struggling humanity.

According to official data of the General Administration of Customs, (December 2021), bilateral trade between China and Pakistan surpassed $27.82 billion, a year-on-year increase of 59.1%.

Chinese exports to Pakistan totalled $24.23 billion, a year-on-year increase of 57.8%, while imports from Pakistan were $3.59 billion, a year-on-year increase of 68.9%.

The Chinese President pledged to jointly work with Pakistan to advance the Global Development Initiative (GDI), the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and make the global economic governance system fairer, equitable and inclusive.

It is pertinent to mention that the GDI and the GSI, proposed by Xi Jinping in 2021 and 2022 respectively, seek to overcome the tunnel vision that contributes to the rise of de-globalization, populism and xenophobia which risk impeding global governance of development and security.

In addition to it, the GDI showcases re-energizing and speeding up the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and building a global community of development, while the GSI vividly reflects need of the new suitable security concept and common security system the world needs for opening of an important new way for global security governance.

On his part, Prime Minister Sharif expressed full support for the initiatives, adding that his country will strengthen communication with China in international and regional affairs to contribute positively to world peace and development.

By dubbing Pakistan-China friendship unbreakable, he also reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to the one-China policy and its firm support for China’s position on issues concerning China’s core interests including Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

In a joint statement, both countries agreed to extend their cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, IT and socio-economic development under CPEC.

The two sides also signed and concluded a number of agreements, covering bilateral cooperation in areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural products, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property and infrastructure, among others.

For further banking & financial integration, the central banks of China and Pakistan have signed a memorandum of cooperation on Yuan Clearing Arrangement (YCA) in Pakistan which will help Pakistan to access mainland CNY market rate quotations.

Hopefully, the establishment of the YCA in Pakistan will further boost usage of the Chinese currency for cross-border transactions among Chinese and Pakistani enterprises and financial institutions.

It would also further increase bilateral trade and investment between the two countries. Moreover, it is indeed a strategic development which will gradually lessen Pakistan’s dependence on US dollars for bilateral transactions and ease the pressure on the country’s external account.

It is a positive development which would further improve bilateral relations in terms of trade, investment, banking & finance, joint venture, e-commerce and, above all, give a systematic coverage to all business activities between the two countries.

It would also allow Chinese investors to invest more freely in Pakistan’s markets. On the other hand, Pakistan would be able to raise debt from Chinese markets which would provide the policy makers an alternative and sustainable financial solution to rescue the country from the crisis.

The Yuan clearing arrangement is nothing new to Pakistan as the country has had a currency swap agreement with China since 2011.

Furthermore, China will export technology for a 160 km/h high-speed railway train to Pakistan.

To conclude, China and Pakistan should move forward more effectively with the development of the CPEC Phase-II in which timely acceleration of the construction of infrastructure for the Gwadar Sea Port has great socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic significance.

It would further brighten the chances of CPEC’s greater regional connectivity with middle economic corridor Afghanistan and all the states of Central Asia Region in the days to come.

All the states of Central Asia have already shown their keen interest in this regard. Moreover, it would further stabilize lines of communication and develop an alternative path via sea to the macro-economy of China for easy and smooth shipping of goods to the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and beyond in the days to come.

More concrete efforts should be made to bring “Green Revolution” in the agriculture sector by using the modern Chinese methods and technologies transforming “Deserts” into hubs of greenery and “Sands” into “Shining Propositions” of socio-economic development.

—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer.

 

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