Pakistan-China friendship: a sacred tale of abiding trust and love
Published: Oct 30, 2022 06:20 PM
The photo taken on September 9, 2021 shows a view of the Lahore Converter Station of high-voltage direct current transmission line project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the outskirts of Lahore, in Pakistan's eastern Punjab Province. Photo: Xinhua

The photo taken on September 9, 2021 shows a view of the Lahore Converter Station of high-voltage direct current transmission line project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the outskirts of Lahore, in Pakistan's eastern Punjab Province. Photo: Xinhua

Confucius once paid tribute to friends and friendship in these illuminating words:

"There are three types of good friends: one that is direct and honest; one that is trustworthy, dependable, and generous when you need help; and one that is knowledgeable and talented to guide you and show you what you can't see." 

China-Pakistan eternal friendship fulfils all three attributes as illustrated by the Great Master!

Longevity, love and trust aptly describe Pakistan-China friendship. There is no relationship like ours which so deeply touches the soul of our people and evokes such strong emotions. Poetic expressions with emotive diction are used to captivate the essence of these fabulous ties. Touching stories of mutual support and solidarity in difficult times, transferred from generation to generation, have become an ineffaceable element of our collective consciousness. 

Nurtured by the enthusiasm of our peoples and steered by vision of the leadership, the seed of Pakistan-China friendship has blossomed into an evergreen tree with deep roots and strong branches. It has withstood the vicissitudes of international upheavals and vagaries of domestic changes. 

 For Pakistan, relations with China form the cornerstone of our foreign policy; in China, Pakistan is described as Ba Tie i.e. China's Iron Brother, and elsewhere our ties are appreciated for their unique strength, enduring permanence and unfathomable trust. 

 I would be soon in Beijing on my first bilateral visit after assuming office, and that too at an opportune time, soon after the successful conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. 

I would like to express my heartiest felicitations to my brother General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China for starting a New Era of China's progress; and I say with complete confidence that it heralds the dawn of a brighter era of China-Pakistan friendship too!

Shehbaz Sharif. Photo: Courtesy of Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing

Shehbaz Sharif. Photo: Courtesy of Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing

Ever since the beginning of my political career, China's civilizational ethos, rich historical experiences and its odyssey to become the centre of global politics and economics has been a subject of irresistible curiosity for me. 

In my previous visits to China, I tried to unlock the secrets of its rapid growth and development. I was deeply impressed to observe the selfless dedication, toil and labour of Chinese people, in particular the "Chinese speed" to achieve national targets set by the leadership. As the Chief Minister of Punjab, I tried to work with the same spirit for the province's socio-economic development. As the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I am determined to work with similar passion to meet our common development goals!

Since my last visit to China, the international landscape has undergone a profound transformation unprecedented in its scale and scope. Geopolitical tensions are leading to conflicts, resurrection of ideological divide, economic and technological decoupling, and costly arms race. Sadly, this is happening when a multitude of humanity continue to suffer from poverty, disease and hunger. 

In many parts of the world, people are still battling with COVID-19 and its aftershocks. The spectre of climate change is looming large and is a grim reality of today. Pakistan has been its recent victim in the shape of devastating floods. 

The imperatives of 21st century demand a new paradigm to deal with emerging challenges as well as opportunities and to wean our region away from conflict and conflagration. We seek friendly relations with our neighbouring countries on the basis of mutual respect and spirit of cooperation, and desire peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes including Kashmir issue through dialogue and diplomacy based on UN charter and resolutions. 

The very nature and genesis of all these challenges is unique and, if left unattended, they could reverse the march of globalization and undo the great achievements humankind has made. It surely requires what President Xi has often said, global action, global response and solidarity. 

Amidst this unfolding global scenario, the salience of China-Pakistan strategic partnership has increased manifold. The imperatives of geography, our common outlook, expanding economic partnership and an acute sense of destiny have made us a natural partner. 

Pakistan is committed to further deepen bilateral ties between our two countries, continue our mutual support on core issues, continue our efforts for regional peace and connectivity and progressively advance our all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation to a new pinnacle of trust and close cooperation. 

The solidarity and support China extended to Pakistan in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic was the vivid manifestation of our time-tested friendship. Over sixty relief flights carrying emergency medical supplies were sent to Pakistan. Chinese-made vaccines were the mainstay of our nation-wide immunization drive.

Similarly, after the recent devastating floods in Pakistan, China's top leadership, central government ministries, provincial governments, enterprises and common people from all walks of life came forward to assist the flood-affected people of Pakistan. I was particularly touched to note that even children on watching visuals of floods in Pakistan donated their pocket-money. These moving stories truly reflect the deep affection and close fraternal bonds between our two peoples. 

Pakistan today finds itself at the anvil of unprecedented changes as it marches forward for a robust, sustainable and inclusive economic development. Like other countries, Pakistan's economy too is facing number of challenges due to global economic slowdown, rising food and oil prices and supply chain disruptions. Despite the global economic headwinds, my government is working assiduously to harness our indigenous resources and potential for ensuring prosperity and progress of our people. 

In pursuance of these objectives, we draw inspiration from China's achievements be it attaining the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society or its endeavours for meeting the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects. 

China is Pakistan's largest trade and investment partner. We want to expand these ties by making an optimal use of the 2nd Phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement and enhancing industrial cooperation. Pakistan can serve as the manufacturing base for China and an extension of its industrial and supply chain network. 

As the fifth populous country with over 60 percent youth, talented human resource and a burgeoning market with immense growth potential, Pakistan offers attractive investment opportunities to the Chinese companies in areas of industry, agriculture modernisation, infrastructure, green energy and digital economy. 

Since ancient times, the fertile river valleys of Pakistan have been the granaries of the subcontinent. Building upon the complementarities in agriculture, our two countries can fast-track bilateral cooperation to boost corporate farming, efficient water usage, development of hybrid seeds and high yield crops and establishing cold storage chains. This cooperation has assumed an added importance to address common concerns related to food security.

Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity's survival. The recent unprecedented floods in Pakistan inundated one-third of our territory and affected over 33 million people with huge economic losses.  This climate-induced catastrophe is a wake-up call for the sceptics and a clarion call for joint action. 

China is leading voice for addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and has upgraded its disaster response mechanism. We look forward to learning from China's technological advancement in early warning system, building resilient infrastructure and disaster management. 

Knowledge-based economy has emerged as the new driver for national growth. In Pakistan, we are laying focus on e-commerce, establishment of technology parks and smart cities. We appreciate China's rapid advancement in science and technology and want to expand cooperation in emerging and smart technologies including quantum computing, robotics, AI, and big data. 

Pakistan is the earliest partner of President Xi Jinping's visionary Belt and Road Initiative. We have also ardently supported President Xi's Global Development Initiative, which complements BRI and would contribute to the implementation of UN 2030 SDGs. Pakistan looks forward to working with China to meet GDI goals as a key partner country.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor as the flagship of BRI has infused renewed vitality into our socioeconomic development in a short span of a few years. I fondly recall that CPEC was formally launched during the tenure of my brother, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As the Chief Minister of Punjab, I contributed to the then government's effort by completing many key energy and public transport projects in record time which included coal power plants at Sahiwal, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park and Pakistan's first Lahore Orange Line mass transit project. 

As a game-changer for Pakistan and subsequently for the broader region, CPEC is the central pillar of my government's development agenda. Under its rubric, the successful completion of energy and transport infrastructure projects have set the stage for Pakistan's economic revitalization and for laying a solid foundation for cooperation in diverse sectors.

CPEC's next phase of high quality development will encompass key areas such as industry, energy, agriculture, ICT, rail and road network and developing Gwadar Port as a hub of trade and transhipment, investment and regional connectivity. Our overall aim is to harness the potential of CPEC for Pakistan's inclusive and sustainable growth, socioeconomic development and for improving livelihoods of our people. 

Safety and security of Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan remains our top priority. The loss of precious Chinese lives in Pakistan is our loss. We would not let anyone to damage our close friendship and strong economic partnership. My government would spare no effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of these reprehensible acts.  

To a cursory observer, Pakistan-China friendship may be driven by their respective national interests. To a historian, the geographical proximity and commonality of past experiences may have brought us together. But for us in Pakistan and in true essence, fraternal bonds between our two peoples are much deeper, transcending the general precepts of inter-state ties and uniting us in an eternal and timeless relationship. 

While intensifying our efforts to expand our bilateral cultural exchanges and bringing people of our two countries together, we need to pay a special focus to encouraging more exchanges amongst our youth to bequeath finest traditions of our bilateral friendship and to help them grasp its significance in a fast-changing world. 

Both Pakistan and China are tied together by a common vision to play a role for bright future of our people as well as for peace and stability of the broader region. This is a responsibility that history has placed on our shoulders and we would surely fulfil it!

And I am confident that our relationship, which President Xi hailed as "taller than mountains, deeper than oceans, and sweeter than honey" in his address to Pakistan's Parliament in April 2015, can help us achieve our common aspirations. 

Live Long Pakistan-China Friendship!

The author is Pakistani Prime Minister. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn