Pakistani president visits China amid pandemic in show of solidarity

By Wang Bozun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/17 23:43:40

Editor's Note:

As the world is facing challenges brought about by COVID-19, Pakistani President Arif Alvi chose this special time to visit China to show solidarity between the two "iron brothers." On the occasion, Global Times reporter Wang Bozun (GT) sat down with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Qureshi), and spoke about the pandemic situation and the cooperation between the two all-weather strategic partners in dealing with the challenges caused by the virus.

GT: At present, China is making every effort to fight the COVID-19 epidemic. What made you decide to visit China during this special time? 

Qureshi: We chose this time in particular to show solidarity with the people of China. The bonds that we have with China are unique. Our relationship is a very special one. And the people of Pakistan want to physically demonstrate to the people of China that we are standing with you in these challenging times. 

The basic agenda is to show solidarity. But since we were coming here and meeting the leadership - the President, the Premier, and the Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee - the bilateral relations, the regional situation, the peace process that is taking place in Afghanistan, and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir are all under discussion. 

We will be setting up a working group on agriculture - how China can help Pakistan improve its agricultural productivity. And the other agreements and MOUs are on science and technology - how we can cooperate in the fields of science and technology. 

GT: China is among several countries that have been hit hard by the epidemic. As China's neighbor, what is your take on China's measures to prevent and control the epidemic?

Qureshi: China's measures were not only timely, they were very effective. The discipline the nation showed, the determination shown to people, and the country's leadership are being talked about all over the world today.

Countries that were initially critical of the measures that China has taken are now recognizing and appreciating what China has done. 

China has shown its ability. China has shown discipline. China has shown its effective governance and administrative capability and the resilience of its health care system.

Flags of China and Pakistan in Tiananmen Square in Beijing Photo: Wang Bozun/GT

GT: From your point of view, has this epidemic had any impact on the construction of the CPEC? How are projects going? How do you assess the prospects for CPEC construction during and after the outbreak?

Qureshi: I don't think it'll have an impact in the long run. But in the short run, yes, there could be a slight slowdown. But both sides are committed that we will go ahead with full speed. As soon as we are over the hump of dealing with the coronavirus, I think we'll be back on track. 

There's a temporary dip, but I think things will revive very quickly. The future of the CPEC is very bright. The future is very promising, not just for Pakistan and China. In fact, the entire region stands to benefit from these projects. 

GT: There have also been confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan. Has China offered assistance? In which aspects does Pakistan need assistance?

Qureshi: Yes, China has helped and shared its experience with us. China has sent teams to assess the situation and provided testing kits in the thousands. We are expecting personnel protective equipment from China. We think we need some additional portable ventilators. Quarantine facilities are being upgraded in Pakistan with Chinese help. So, there is coordination and assistance being provided by China. 

GT: Since the outbreak began, China has been conducting international cooperation for the prevention and control of the epidemic in an open, transparent and responsible manner. How do you evaluate China's role in this regard?

Qureshi: I think China is being viewed very positively in its containment of the disease within China, and is now offering help to other countries. 

For example, your assistance to Italy is very important. So, a lot of people are looking up to your experience to see how you've done it, and then replicating that in their own countries. 

It's a global challenge. You cannot link this virus to any particular area, region or people. It's a challenge that we all have to collectively fight and assist in. The WHO has issued guidelines, and they've also shown appreciation for what China has done. 

We have to take a global approach. We have to develop institutional links, and we have to ensure that there's no panic. 

GT: In addition to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan is also suffering from a locust plague. How much economic damage has the locust plague caused in Pakistan? It has been reported that Pakistan is working with Chinese experts to control the pests. What progress has been made so far?

Qureshi: The damages are being assessed and exact numbers will be calculated and shared with the government shortly. Obviously, this is a concern because we are a primarily agricultural economy and locusts have a damaging impact on all major crops. 

They have the potential to destroy agricultural crops and impacting food security. We are concerned and we have asked China for help. 

We are happy that China has responded very positively in providing us spraying equipment and pesticides to deal with this challenge. 

With Chinese assistance, I think we will be able to deal with this effectively.

GT: Can you briefly describe the trade situation between China and Pakistan under the pandemic?

Qureshi: Obviously, we have to be more careful. Some precautionary measures have been taken and that could slow things down for a period. But trade is ongoing. There has been no stoppage of that. We have maintained our transport and trade links with China. 

Newspaper headline: Iron brothers

Posted in: ECONOMY

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