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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

‘Difficult to say goodbye to Pakistan’: Ambassador Yao Jing bids emotional farewell to Islamabad

In farewell ceremony, outgoing Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing praises efforts of Prime Minister Imran to stabilize the economy, talks increased Pak-China cooperation

In a voice choked with emotion, the outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, on Friday said that it was difficult for him to say goodbye to Pakistan. “In the eleven years I have spent in Pakistan as a Chinese diplomat, I have found more love, sincerity, and affection here than anywhere else in the world,” he remarked.

The comments came during a farewell reception hosted by the Embassy of China for Ambassador Yao at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad. Many journalists, prominent anchorpersons, activists, and other members of the civil society were present on the occasion. Ambassador Yao has been replaced by Nong Rong by the Chinese government.

During the farewell reception, Ambassador Yao talked at length to the Pakistani media, reminiscing about his time in Pakistan and sharing some of his fondest memories of the country. The outgoing diplomat has served in Islamabad on three different occasions, in three different roles, for a period of eleven years, between 1994-2020.

‘Stunned by diversity, natural beauty of Pakistan’

“The first time I was posted to Pakistan was in 1994, as a junior diplomat. Islamabad was then very small. There were fewer paved roads, load-shedding was rampant, and sometimes the generators of the Chinese Embassy would break down after working continuously for hours,” Ambassador Yao told the media on Friday evening.

“I was less busy then. There was no China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) then. I had the time to travel. So I traveled across Pakistan. I went to Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, and also to the northern areas of Pakistan. Wherever I went, I was stunned by the geographical diversity and the natural beauty of Pakistan,” the Ambassador added.

The diplomat further said that not only was Pakistan beautiful, but the people of the country were also very hospitable. “What touched me most was the love, sincerity, and hospitality of the people of Pakistan. It made me fall in love with Pakistan,” he outlined, noting that Pakistan was more than just a second home to him.

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“The second time I was posted here was in 2007, as deputy chief of the diplomatic mission. I left this posting in 2010. This was a very painful period for the country and its people, with numerous security challenges confronting Islamabad. This time period, in my opinion, interfered with the progress Pakistan had been making in many fields,” he underlined.

Ambassador Yao maintained that when he was posted back to the country in 2017, the painful period had passed, and he could see Pakistan becoming more stable in a meaningful way. “I think the present government of Pakistan is taking very well-thought initiatives to move the country in the right direction,” he told the gathering.

During a question answer session after the speech of the Ambassador, prominent journalist Moeed Pirzada, who had recently interviewed the diplomat, thanked him for the kind words used for Islamabad, and pressed the Ambassador to outline some of the achievements of CPEC, especially in the agriculture sector.

Ambassador Yao Ying oversees key milestones of CPEC

CPEC, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jingping, has expanded and moved from strength to strength under Ambassador Yao. Originally envisioned as an economic corridor, many key projects of CPEC, including power plants and industrial zones, have been inaugurated under the outgoing Chinese diplomat.

“Many achievements of CPEC are visible. The Gwadar Port has been expanded. The development of the infrastructure and road networks across Pakistan is also visible. 9 of the 22 power projects under CPEC are already producing electricity. The initiation of the ML-1 rail project and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) can also be seen,” the diplomat said.

“Of the 9 SEZs, three will become functional this year. Allama Iqbal Industrial City, located near Faisalabad, was inaugurated in January this year. The Rashakai Economic Zone, near Peshawar, was inaugurated earlier this week. Another SEZ near Karachi is expected to be made functional in the coming weeks,” he told Pirzada.

The WhatsApp call from PM Imran

In response to the question about the cooperation in the agriculture sector, the Chinese envoy narrated an interesting anecdote to the journalists. He said that he had been traveling on a highway outside Islamabad on June 17, 2019 when the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, called him on WhatsApp.

“The line was not clear and I could hear the word agriculture. So I told the Honourable Prime Minister that I would call him when I got back to the Embassy,” the diplomat said to smiles around the hall. According to Ambassador Yao, when he got back, he tried to get in touch with the premier, who was busy, but in the evening, he was able to connect to him.

“Ambassador Yao, the prime minister said to me, please do something for Pakistan in the agricultural sector. Our agriculture is suffering, the premier told me, and he further explained that the agricultural yield of Pakistan had fallen. We are troubled and we need your help as China has been leading an agriculture revolution,” the diplomat narrated.

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The envoy noted that he then decided to kickstart Pakistan-China cooperation in agriculture, which has, since then, expanded to several areas. “It is government to government, it involves technology transfer, and eight agri-technical areas are being developed,” Ambassador Yao told the audience.

“This cooperation is taking place in the areas of seed development and movement, pesticide research, improvement of farming methods, skill development, technology transfer, cooperative farming, as well as agri-product processing. China is donating factories to Pakistan for date, onion, and mango processing.”

He further added that Beijing was also planning to help Islamabad develop the meat export market to the Middle East and GCC countries. He said that the Chinese would help Pakistan with milk-processing. “China is a huge potential market for both milk and meat from Pakistan.”

GVS News Desk