‘Higher than the Hi­malayas’

Enterprise - - EDITOR'S DESK -

Nawaz Sharif chose China as his first for­eign des­ti­na­tion af­ter be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter. Dur­ing the visit, his dis­cus­sions with the Chi­nese lead­er­ship re­volved around en­ergy, trade in­vest­ment, in­fra­struc­ture, bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion and ter­ror­ism. Chi­nese co­op­er­a­tion with Pak­istan has reached new eco­nomic high points, with sub­stan­tial Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Pak­istani in­fras­truc­tural ex­pan­sion. Both coun­tries have an on­go­ing free trade agree­ment. In the ear­lier days, when China was more or less iso­lated from the rest of the world, Pak­istan served as its main bridge to Mus­lim coun­tries and also played an im­por­tant role in clos­ing the gap with the West by fa­cil­i­tat­ing the 1972 Nixon visit to China.

This time around, dur­ing Nawaz Sharif’s visit, the two coun­tries signed eight Mem­o­randa of Un­der­stand­ing and agree­ments in­clud­ing the Pak­istan-China Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor ac­cord to strengthen bi­lat­eral eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion. The agree­ment to build a trade link con­nect­ing Gwadar’s deep sea port with Kash­gar fur­ther steps up bi­lat­eral eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion. It is hoped that the cor­ri­dor will be­come a very im­por­tant eco­nomic and en­ergy hub and per­haps even a ‘game changer’ in the re­gion. It is good that both coun­tries are look­ing to deep­en­ing their mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with a new vigour and Nawaz Sharif’s visit is a re­flec­tion of the deep-rooted re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pak­istan and China. Both sides have re­it­er­ated their de­sire to con­tinue to deepen their strate­gic part­ner­ship and their re­la­tions have be­come even more sig­nif­i­cant con­sid­er­ing the 2014 NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It is time that the so-called all-weather, ‘higher than the Hi­malayas’ friend­ship be­tween Pak­istan and China be­came a hard eco­nomic re­al­ity now and went be­yond the mere sign­ing of MoUs. For the most part, Pak-China in­ter­ac­tion is presently limited to mostly in­ter-govern­ment con­tacts. Peo­ple to peo­ple con­tacts are few and far be­tween and play a scant role in strength­en­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. A sus­tained re­la­tion­ship would need un­der­stand­ing of each other’s cul­ture, lan­guage, ways of life, reg­u­lar peo­ple to peo­ple con­tact, in­ter­ac­tion be­tween me­dia and joint par­tic­i­pa­tion in creative arts like cin­ema and mu­sic, etc. Ex­change of stu­dents, tourism and vis­its of cul­tural troupes keep mu­tual ties re­freshed. Col­lab­o­ra­tion at the think tanks level helps in cor­rect­ing any dis­tor­tion in per­cep­tions. An im­por­tant mile­stone was achieved ear­lier when Pak­istan handed over man­age­ment of the Gwadar deep sea port to China. The port has im­por­tant geostrate­gic and po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions and in­ter­ests in the re­gion: it will con­nect China to the Ara­bian Sea and to the Strait of Hor­muz, an im­por­tant gate­way for a third of the world’s oil. If used as a Chi­nese naval base, the port will have new im­pli­ca­tions.

China-Pak­istan re­la­tions be­gan in 1950 when Pak­istan was among the first coun­tries to rec­og­nize the PRC. Since then, both coun­tries have placed con­sid­er­able im­por­tance on their ex­tremely close and sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ship. The two coun­tries have reg­u­larly ex­changed high-level vis­its re­sult­ing in a va­ri­ety of agree­ments. China has pro­vided eco­nomic, mil­i­tary and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to Pak­istan and each con­sid­ers the other a close strate­gic ally. Bi­lat­eral re­la­tions have evolved from an ini­tial Chi­nese pol­icy of neu­tral­ity to a part­ner­ship that links a smaller but mil­i­tar­ily pow­er­ful Pak­istan, par­tially de­pen­dent on China for its eco­nomic and mil­i­tary strength, with China at­tempt­ing to bal­ance com­pet­ing in­ter­ests in the re­gion. Chi­nese mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to Pak­istan be­gan in 1966 while a strate­gic al­liance was formed in 1972 and eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion be­tween both coun­tries be­gan in 1979. China has be­come Pak­istan’s largest sup­plier of arms and its third-largest trad­ing part­ner.

It is very re­as­sur­ing that China wants to see Pak­istan as a pros­per­ous and de­vel­oped coun­try and re­gards its prob­lems sym­pa­thet­i­cally. Bu­reau­cratic red tape and in­ef­fi­cient han­dling stand in the way of speedy ex­e­cu­tion of MoUs signed be­tween the two coun­tries. China is Pak­istan’s largest trade part­ner at the bi­lat­eral level. How­ever, Pak-China bi­lat­eral trade suf­fers from an im­bal­ance and needs to re­view its poli­cies to cor­rect this im­bal­ance. Pak­istani con­sumers of­ten com­plain about the low qual­ity and short life of Chi­nese goods. The en­ergy cri­sis makes the sit­u­a­tion worse. Ways and means need to be found to pro­vide an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for Chi­nese in­vestors.

Keep­ing in view Pak­istan’s huge un­tapped po­ten­tial in wind and so­lar means of elec­tric­ity, Chi­nese in­vestors should be en­cour­aged and fa­cil­i­tated to par­tic­i­pate in re­lated en­ergy projects. China is the only coun­try that has been per­sis­tently help­ing Pak­istan in the nu­clear do­main of power gen­er­a­tion. This co­op­er­a­tion needs to be car­ried fur­ther and trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy may be sought so that Pak­istan could man­u­fac­ture nu­clear power re­ac­tors. China has all along been a re­li­able sup­plier of mil­i­tary hard­ware and tech­nol­ogy re­lated know-how. Keep­ing in view the strings at­tached to the sup­ply of mil­i­tary hard­ware by Amer­ica and other Western coun­tries, Pak­istan should fur­ther build on this re­la­tion­ship and di­ver­sify its crit­i­cal de­pen­den­cies by ini­ti­at­ing new projects with China.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.