Ce­ment­ing a part­ner­ship

The Pak Banker - - Editorial -

Afghanistan. The ex­pres­sion of po­lit­i­cal sol­i­dar­ity by the Chi­nese leader was aimed at bol­ster­ing Pak­istan's po­si­tion in the face of these pres­sures, and sig­nal that Bei­jing, for one, would stand firmly ?by Pak­istan through what Premier Wen de­scribed as "tough times." Prime Min­is­ter Wen's visit did more than pro­vide much needed diplo­matic sup­port for an ally un­der pres­sure. It sought to el­e­vate the part­ner­ship by the prom­ise of greater co­or­di­na­tion at the global level. The 7-page joint state­ment re­ferred to the fact that "China-Pak­istan re­la­tions have gone be­yond bi­lat­eral di­men­sions and ac­c­quired broader re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ram­i­fi­ca­tions". It also an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of a lead­er­ship level an­nual con­sul­ta­tion mech­a­nism. This re­flected the pri­or­ity Bei­jing at­taches to Pak­istan in its global agenda.

The af­fir­ma­tion of a global part­ner­ship has added sig­nif­i­cance in the con­text of the shift­ing in­ter­na­tional bal­ance of power marked by China's grow­ing clout. For Is­lam­abad this holds the prospect of co­or­di­nat­ing more closely with a di­plo­mat­i­cally as­sertive Bei­jing at mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rums to ad­vance mu­tual goals, in­clud­ing UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil re­form, on which the two coun­tries have "com­mon in­ter­ests" as Wen ac­knowl­edged in his speech.

The visit also aimed at diver­si­fy­ing the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship from the tra­di­tional fo­cus on de­fence and mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion to­wards greater eco­nomic, trade and in­vest­ment ties in­clud­ing help for Pak­istan's crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture needs.

The Chi­nese of­fer to help in the en­ergy sec­tor was recog­ni­tion of Pak­istan's press­ing pri­or­ity. An en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nism is ex­pected to ad­vance co­op­er­a­tion in con­ven­tional, re­new­able and civil nu­clear en­ergy. This will in­clude Chi­nese as­sis­tance to up­grade Pak­istan's na­tional elec­tric­ity grid and un­der­take large hy­dro­elec­tric projects as well as con­tinue col­lab­o­ra­tion on the Chashma III and IV civil­ian nu­clear projects. Agree­ments and MOUs cov­er­ing other projects and deals worth an es­ti­mated $30 bil­lion were signed dur­ing the visit. They in­cluded $10 bil­lion of trade deals. Cur­rent bi­lat­eral trade re­mains mod­est at $7 bil­lion but is ex­pected to more than dou­ble in five years due to ro­bust an­nual growth and plans to fur­ther lib­er­alise and ex­pand trade un­der ex­ist­ing Free Trade Agree­ments (FTAs) on goods, in­vest­ment and ser­vices. Bei­jing's as­sent to give Pak­istan uni­lat­eral con­ces­sions on 286 prod­ucts is de­signed to help boost Pak­istani ex­ports. The em­pha­sis in fu­ture trade and in­fra­struc­ture co­op­er­a­tion on pro­mot­ing devel­op­ment in border ar­eas and es­tab­lish­ing trans-border eco­nomic zones re­flected the com­mon strate­gic vi­sion to link China's western re­gion to Pak­istan's south­ern coast and to com­mer­cially bind Pak­istan more closely to China's ex­pand­ing econ­omy. With the sign­ing of the new agree­ments, Pak­istan emerged as the top des­ti­na­tion for Chi­nese in­vest­ment in South Asia.

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