Pakistan-China friendship: a hallowed story of enduring love and trust, according to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 30: Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, stated on Sunday that his country intended to strengthen industrial cooperation and make the most of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement in order to increase trade and investment connections with China.

In an essay written for the Chinese daily Global Times, the Prime Minister claimed that Pakistan could act as an extension of China’s industrial and supply chain network.

According to the prime minister quoted in the article, Confucius once praised friends and friendship in these wise words:

“There are three types of good friends: one who is straightforward and honest; one who is dependable, generous, and trustworthy when you need support; and one who is knowledgeable and gifted to lead you and reveal what you cannot see.”

According to the Great Master, the enduring friendship between China and Pakistan satisfies all three criteria.

Longevity, love, and trust aptly describe Pakistan-China friendship. There is no relationship like ours that so deeply touches the souls of its participants 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 people and steered by the vision of our 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 the 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 in Beijing soon 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!

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 have been a subject of irresistible curiosity for me.

On my previous visits to China, I tried to unlock the secrets of its rapid growth and development. I was deeply impressed by the Chinese people’s selfless dedication, toil, and labor, particularly the “Chinese speed” in achieving 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 a 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, the revival of ideological divides, economic and technological decoupling, and costly arms races. Unfortunately, this is occurring while a large portion of humanity continues 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 most recent victim in the shape of devastating floods.

The imperatives of the 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 the Kashmir issue, through dialogue and diplomacy based on the 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 globalisation 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 the 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 deepening bilateral ties between our two countries, continuing our mutual support on core issues, continuing our efforts for regional peace and connectivity and progressively advancing 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 the COVID-19 pandemic was a 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’s wide immunization drive.

Similarly, after the recent devastating floods in Pakistan, China’s top leadership, central government ministries, provincial governments, enterprises, and ordinary 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 is currently facing unprecedented changes as it strives for robust, sustainable, and inclusive economic development.Like other countries, Pakistan’s economy is also facing a number of challenges due to the 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 to ensure the prosperity and progress of our people.

In pursuance of these objectives, we draw inspiration from China’s achievements, be it attaining the first centennial goal of building a moderately prosperous society or its endeavours to meet the second centennial 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 optimal use of the 2nd Phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement and enhancing industrial cooperation. Pakistan can serve as a manufacturing base for China and an extension of its industrial and supply chain network.

Pakistan, the fifth most populous country with more than 60% youth, talented human resources, and a burgeoning market with enormous growth potential, offers attractive investment opportunities to Chinese companies in industries such as agriculture modernization, 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 establish cold storage chains. This cooperation has acquired 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 sceptics and a clarion call for joint action.

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

A knowledge-based economy has emerged as the new driver for national growth. In Pakistan, we are laying focus on e-commerce, the 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 in 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.

The 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 has 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 networks, 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 to improve the livelihoods of our people.

The 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 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 the people of our two countries together, we need to pay a special focus on encouraging more exchanges amongst our youth to bequeath the 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 in the bright future of our people as well as the peace and stability of the broader region. This is a responsibility that history has placed on our shoulders, and we will 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.

Long Live the Pakistan-China Friendship!