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China Daily Global / 2021-05 / 21 / Page012

Friends in need and in deed for 70 years

By Khalid Rahman | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-21 00:00

Seventy years ago, on May 21, 1951, when Pakistan and China established diplomatic relations, very few people could have imagined that the customary move would lay the foundation for an extraordinary bilateral relationship.

Pakistan was one of the first non-communist countries to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic at a time when the world was divided into communist and anti-communist blocs. It was also a time when, in the regional context, the foundation of the friendship between India and China was being laid.

Due to frequent contacts and increasing trust between the successive leaders of Pakistan and China, even in the midst of fast changing regional and global situations, Sino-Pakistani relations were not limited to customary diplomatic affairs. Despite following two very different governance systems, the affinity and trust between the two countries only became deeper. There is no doubt that apart from benefiting the two sides, this deep-rooted relationship has also helped maintain regional balance, peace and stability.

China has made extraordinary progress, especially during the past four decades. Today, the Chinese economy is the biggest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. It is a hub of manufacturing and services, and is set to become a financial hub sooner rather than later.

So China can rightfully be regarded as the growth engine of the world. On the domestic front, it is moving toward striking the right balance in regional development, and has lifted more than 700 million people out of absolute poverty. China not only symbolizes fast and inclusive economic growth, but also plays a vital role in international relations.

Pakistanis look at China's growth with hope and pride. They realize that their country's growth has suffered significantly due to several internal and external factors. And although the equation between the two countries has now somewhat changed, it hasn't altered the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.

An important indicator in this regard is that Pakistan not only is a part of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to improve regional connectivity and infrastructure and could transform the global economic and political landscape, but also accords special importance to the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a flagship of Belt and Road mega-projects.

The history of connectivity between Pakistan and China goes back thousands of years, and even in recent history, the CPEC is not the first step toward improving connectivity between the two sides. The foundation of this connectivity was laid much earlier with the first Pakistan International Airlines flight establishing a Pakistan-China air corridor in 1964, followed by the Karakoram Highway in 1978 and the Gwadar Port, which created new shipping and logistics opportunities for the two sides at the beginning of this century. It is these projects that laid the foundation for today's mega-projects.

The CPEC was agreed upon in 2013 and formally launched in 2015, and despite the completion of only the first phase of this mega-project, Pakistan is already enjoying its benefits. Projects worth $25 billion out of a total of $65 billion have already been added to Pakistan's infrastructure and economy. While the completion of several energy projects has largely reduced the power shortage in Pakistan, the construction of highways has made improved transportation.

Besides, operations at the Gwadar Port have started, and the foundations of at least three economic zones have been laid. Also, according to official data, 70,000-80,000 new jobs have been created, facilitating people-to-people contact, one of the deficit areas in bilateral relations.

A significant feature of Sino-Pakistani relations is that it covers nearly all important aspects of life. Although the economic aspect has been in the spotlight due to the CPEC, the cooperation between the two countries in political, strategic and security-related affairs is rarely highlighted.

When it comes to endorsing each other in matters related to their respective core interests, both sides have supported each other. Similarly, cooperation in the technological, academic and cultural fields has also been increasing. And enhancing each other's potential, particularly in high-tech and defense, is one of the hallmarks of the relationship.

However, given the diversity in their societies and cultures, it is not correct to assume the two countries never have any differences. They do, but their mutual trust and respect do not allow these differences to turn into disputes.

While Sino-Pakistani relations have given Islamabad a sense of security, stability and solidarity, Beijing has found a true friend in Islamabad that has unwaveringly stood by it and done all it could to help boost China's role in global affairs.

The China-Pakistan relationship is based on shared ethos and instilled with humility, modesty and sharing. There is no doubt that apart from cooperation and harmony, values have also played a major role in this success. As such, the principle of mutual respect practiced by the two sides can ensure durable peace, prosperity and development among countries if they adhere to in the true spirit.

The author is the chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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