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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friendship with China after Abbotabad Incident

The warmth was the same as that always observed in the past, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Beijing on May 18. At a time when Pakistan faces threats to its security and economy and is under increasing pressure from the US, the expression of solidarity from China, the country’s time tested friend and neighbour, is highly reassuring. Chinese prime minister asked the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. Considering that no other country has come out so categorically in support of Islamabad on what has turned out to be a demeaning episode for Pakistan, the Chinese prime minister’s remarks, during the course of his Pakistani counterpart’s visit, must be a source of satisfaction for the people of Pakistan. China’s support to Pakistan at this time is welcome.

We share a border, common interests and are developing a relationship based on mutuality. Besides trade there is a strategic element to our partnership, and the importance of Beijing’s statement that ‘an attack on Pakistan is an attack on China’ carries significant importance. Chinese prime minister’s assurances that changes in international politics will not affect Beijing’s relations with Islamabad, the commitment to help strengthen this country’s defence capability and the decision to supply 50 Thunder jets is a matter of satisfaction for the government.

Pakistan-China relation needs to be developed further from their current level simply because their territorial contiguity adds new logistic dimension. China has built the Karakoram Highway and Gwadar Port is ready. There has been collaboration in the energy sector which bore fruit a week ago with the commissioning of a nuclear power plant at Chashma in central Punjab and a contract with the Chinese to construct two more. As fixes go it is neither quick nor cheap – but it is durable and will provide a long-term solution to part of our power problem.

In its transactional relationship with America, Pakistan does not have many choices, but with China it has a range of choices, as do the Chinese with it. And Pakistan is right to push forwards with broadening a relationship which in the long-term will be of greater benefit. In Pakistan, politicians have been calling for relying more on China. There is a need not only to raise the level of trade but also to ensure that Pakistan is able to export at least as much as it imports.

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