FEW relationships in the history of international relations have endured so long as that between Pakistan and China; and even fewer have been described as “higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans”. This description of the all-weather friendship is based on shared principles and interests, and forms the foundation of cooperation in diverse fields. Indeed, Pakistan-China relationship is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy; and friendship with China represents national consensus and the common desire of all Pakistani people. On Thursday, China said it believed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Beijing would inject a new impetus into bilateral partnership between the two all-weather friends, adding there were a lot of fruitful outcomes from his visit. Pakistan and China agreed that the implementation of the second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would lead to more trade, economic and investment opportunities between the two countries.
During a meeting between visiting Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People, both sides noted that frequent bilateral exchanges were contributing to taking the bilateral cooperative partnership to new heights. Prime Minister Imran and Premier Li also discussed bilateral trade and economic partnership as well as the regional security, including the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in the India-occupied Kashmir, especially during the lockdown for more than two months. Imran Khan thanked the leadership and people of China for their warm hospitality and invited Chinese leadership to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient time. China appreciated Pakistan’s unrelenting efforts and tremendous sacrifices while countering terrorism. It also supported Pakistan in implementing National Action Plan and called on the international community to objectively recognize Pakistan’s contribution to regional peace and security through its fight against terrorism.
The two leaders reviewed excellent bilateral defence cooperation and agreed to further strengthen the cooperation in the areas of military exercises, training cooperation, personnel exchanges and equipment and technology. The two sides held in-depth exchange of views on deepening bilateral cooperation in areas of trade, investment, finance, education, agriculture, social sector, people to people contacts and cultural linkages. Chinese investment in specialized Economic Zones and collaboration in Small and Medium Enterprises sector would further expand Pakistan’s industrial base and diversify its export base. Prime Minister Imran Khan felicitated Premier Li on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. During the talks, Prime Minister Imran informed his Chinese counterpart that expeditious completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects was the foremost priority of his government. The transformational project was pivotal to accelerating Pakistan’s economic development and regional prosperity, he said.
He also apprised Premier Li of the actions taken recently by the government to fast track the CPEC projects and to push the development momentum in Gwadar. Imran Khan underscored that the cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China served the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples, and contributed to peace, development and stability of the region. Prime Minister Imran apprised Premier Li of the latest developments and the importance of urgent action by the international community to alleviate the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. Other areas of potential collaboration, which were discussed in the meeting, included railways, steel, oil and gas, industry and science and technology sectors. The two leaders also witnessed signing of various agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOUs) aimed at deepening Pakistan-China ties in a range of socio-economic sectors. Anyhow, Pakistan is poised to overcome economic challenges with the help of China.
According to ISPR, the Army Chief met Chinese military leadership, including PLA Army Commander, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Commander Southern Theater Command. General Qamar Javed Bajwa also joined the Prime Minister in meetings with Chinese Prime Minister and President. Commenting on the Prime Minister’s visit and his meetings with the top Chinese leadership, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said that Beijing attached great importance to the visit of Imran. He also reiterated that China’s position on Kashmir dispute had been consistent, and China supported the principled and sane stance of Pakistan. With Prime Minister Imran Khan and COAS’ visit and meetings with their counterparts would further boost already existing warm and friendly relationship, and sent a message loud and clear that both countries stand shoulder to shoulder in facing the challenges irrespective of time.
In November 2018 during his four-day visit to China, Prime Minister Imran Khan had met President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. He had discussed matters of mutual interest and sought Beijing’s assistance in tackling financial crisis. Reviewing with satisfaction the historical development of China-Pakistan relations and the great strides made both sides in the joint statement had agreed to further strengthen the China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership in line with the principles set forth by the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-neighbourly Relations signed in 2005. The Chinese side had reiterated that China’s relationship with Pakistan is always a matter of highest priority in its foreign policy. China reaffirmed its support and solidarity with Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and security. Last but not the least; despite the fact that Chinese President is to visit India, yet China’s leadership was candid in supporting Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.