- Unanimity on CPEC, IOK and Afghanistan
The perennially ascendant strategic, economic, political and defence ties between China and Pakistan, which have withstood the vicissitudes of times, have attained eternity with both countries becoming partners in the implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship component of the visionary Belt and Road Initiative. The interaction between the leaders of the two countries has invariably led to taking the relations to a still higher level setting futuristic directions in all the domains of their bonhomie. The recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China was no exception in that regard.
China expressed its willingness to expand the scope of CPEC. The joint statement at the end of the visit says “They underlined that Chinese investment in special economic zones and collaboration in small and medium enterprise sector would further expand Pakistan’s industrial base and diversify its export base. Both sides agreed to jointly study identified projects by the Pakistan side in power, petroleum, gas, agriculture, industrial and infrastructure sectors in the next meeting of the Joint Working Committee meeting to be held in Islamabad next month.”
The visit of the Prime Minister to China has been very successful in further strengthening relations between the two countries as well as in reiterating their unanimity of views on the regional issues.
The Prime Minister also had the opportunity of addressing the China Council for Promotion of International Trade. He invited Chinese companies to invest in diverse sectors of the Pakistan economy including housing, textile, manufacturing, IT, financial services, physical and technological logistics, agriculture, oil and gas and tourism and hospitality. He premised his invitation on the steps taken by his government to create a congenial atmosphere for foreign investment, including tackling corruption, ensuring ease of doing business, easing visa restrictions, highlighting that the labour cost in Pakistan was about 20 percent that of China, reiteration of the importance of geo-strategic location of Pakistan and the population of the country being young and vibrant which made it an attractive destination for investment.
Pakistan is now entering the second phase of CPEC and is looking forward to investments in the special economic zones and the projects related to socio-economic development with greater emphasis on alleviation of poverty. Before the Prime Minister embarked on a visit to China, the CPEC Authority was established to ensure speedy implementation of the envisaged projects as the programme would be directly dealt by the Prime Minister Office. The purpose of this step is to encourage the businesses to make big profits as the wealth creation would enable the government to lift people out of poverty on the pattern of China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping appreciated the government’s agenda for socio-economic development and people-centered progress. He underscored that China’s relationship with Pakistan was rock-solid and unbreakable and that strong vibrancy between the two countries would deepen and broaden in future. President Xi lauded Pakistan’s efforts to expeditiously execute CPEC projects and stressed that it would help the national and regional economic development process. These remarks were not only reassuring for future cooperation but also removed the doubts created by certain quarters about the slowing down of the CPEC projects.
According to the joint statement “Chinese leaders reiterated solidarity with Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty, independence and security. Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to the One China Policy also reiterating that affairs of Hong Kong were China’s internal matter and all countries should uphold international law and basic norms of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries.
Pakistan briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Indian-Occupied Kashmir, including its concerns, position, and current urgent issues. The Chinese side responded that it is paying close attention to the current situation in IOK and reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.”
The joint statement indeed reflected the depth and strength of the bonds between the two countries. The reaffirmation of Chinese support for Pakistan’s stance on IOK before the visit of Chinese President to India was of great significance as it sent a loud and clear message to the latter that while China was engaged in improving relations with her it firmly stuck to its position on the situation in IOK, the status of the Kashmir dispute and how it could be resolved.
It is pertinent to mention that during the visit of the Chinese President to India and his meeting with the Indian President, both leaders mostly spoke on issues of trade, investment and on enhancing trade volume in order to bridge the trade deficit between the two countries. According to Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, apart from trade, the two leaders noted, “We are large countries and that radicalization is a matter of concern to both, and that both would work together to see that radicalization and terrorism do not affect the fabric of their multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies.” It is noteworthy that there was no mention of cross-border terrorism which India so fondly has been blaming on Pakistan in her aggressive posturing against it recently.
Pakistan COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited China along with the Prime Minister and was present in all the meeting that the latter had with the Chinese leaders which also signify the importance of the visit in the backdrop of the emerging security situation in the region. General Bajwa also met military leaders of China who endorsed Pakistan’s position in IOK and agreed to enhance existing defence cooperation between the two countries in line with the history of the mutually time-tested relationship.
The regional situation also engaged the attention of the two leaders. Both reaffirmed that there was no military solution to the Afghanistan problem, and that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan would promote economic development and connectivity in the region. They expressed the resolve to continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The Chinese side appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The fact is that both China and Pakistan have been making relentless efforts on bilateral as well as multilateral planks to promote reconciliation in Afghanistan and end the decades-old conflict in that country. Peace in Afghanistan is vital to regional connectivity and shared economic prosperity. Pakistan has been adversely affected by the volatile situation in Afghanistan and its collateral outfall in the form of terrorism. Other countries of the region, including China, Russia and Central Asian nations, have also been affected by it in varying degrees. So it is important for all of them to ensure peace in Afghanistan.
In the light of the above developments, it can be safely inferred that the visit of the Prime Minister to China has been very successful in further strengthening relations between the two countries as well as in reiterating their unanimity of views on the regional issues.