Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay a three-day visit to China from February 3 to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. China is all set to kick start the extraordinary winter Olympics from February 4, carrying forward the spirit of “Together with the shared future.” It is a mega event, and China links high importance to it, whereas few countries are opposing and boycotting it. Pakistan, showing solidarity with China, is presenting its highest level leadership.
PM Imran Khan has already visited China four times; his first visit was before he became PM in 2011, the second was in November 2018, third and fourth were in April and October 2019. Due to COVID, the mutual visits faced limitations in 2020 and 2021. This will be his fifth visit – Feb. 2022.
This visit is very important from a geopolitical perspective at a time when China is being coerced from the West. The U.S. is ganging up and strengthening its alliance against China. The U.S. measures to contain China, counter China, and resist the rise of China, have gained momentum. China needs friends more than ever. And Pakistan, as usual, always stands shoulder to shoulder with China at all critical moments. Pakistan is a dependable friend and time-tested strategic partner.
PM Imran Khan will have a chance to meet the Chinese leadership and discuss matters of mutual interest and may open many new avenues of cooperation and collaboration.
PM will be accompanied by a few cabinet members and senior officials; a visiting team formed on merit and relevance. PM should be extra-careful in selecting his team for this trip. The agenda for the meeting is also smartly prepared. Instead of presenting a long laundry list, this time, his focus will be on a few points but priority ones.
Pakistan is located at a strategic location, and in the rapidly changing geopolitics, Pakistan is even more important. So Pakistan may focus on strategic partnership with China and re-align its foreign policies to face the challenges of the emerging situation in the region. Defense collaboration is vital for strategic cooperation.
Pakistan is passing through the worst economic crisis, IMF pressures, and international coercion, like FATF, etc. Whereas China is the only country in the whole world whose economy is growing, despite COVID, its economic indicators are all positive. China has the capacity to assist Pakistan and bailout it out from any severe crisis. China can rescue Pakistan from IMF, FATF, and international coercion – should it chose to do so.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is Oxygen for the ailing economy. During his visit, PM may focus on CPEC projects, especially ML-1, SEZs, Industrialization, Agriculture, etc.
China is a leader in railways, with the largest network of railways in China, and especially high-speed trains. PM may seek Chinese assistance in improving the railway network in Pakistan. All hurdles must be removed during his visit, and ML-1 should be initiated on a priority basis.
China is entering into high tech and shifting its traditional industry to other countries, whereas Pakistan is desirous of industrialization. Pakistan is blessed with an abundance of raw materials, rich in mines and minerals, possessing a huge workforce; with a little effort, the raw workforce can be trained and turn into a productive one. China has the experience and can help Pakistan in industrialization. As long as the GOP formulates attractive policies, China will be willing to assist. During this visit, PM may also conclude policies measures to attract Chinese industry.
China has been transformed from a food deficient country into a net exporter of agro-products during the last four decades. China used modern technology and research-based techniques to overcome its food shortages. China has experience and technology. PM may explore seed technology, new varieties, post-harvest technologies, food processing, logistics, etc. Pharmaceutical is also an area where collaboration with China may be beneficial for Pakistan.
The nation has high expectations from his visit, and it is expected that as a result of his visit, Chinese investment, Economic activities, especially Pakistani exports to China, Transfer of technology, shifting of Chinese industries, and cooperation in agriculture will be enhanced tangibly. It is worth mentioning that China is the largest exporter, simultaneously, the largest importer too. It is an opportunity for Pakistan to enhance its exports to China and narrow down the trade gap.
Time-tested strategic relationship
Pakistan is among the first few countries that recognized China. On May 21, 1951, the two countries officially established their diplomatic relations. Since then, China and Pakistan have witnessed smooth development of friendly and neighborly relations as well as mutually beneficial cooperation.
During the Bandung Conference in 1955, Premier Zhou Enlai held two friendly talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra, and both sides shared the view that exchange and cooperation in various areas should be strengthened between the two countries. The talks played an important role in promoting understanding and developing friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries. After the Bandung Conference, there was a gradual increase of high-level exchanges visits between the two countries.
In October 1956, at the invitation of the Chinese Government, Pakistani Prime Minister Suharwardy paid an official visit to China. In December of the same year, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Pakistan. The successful exchange of visits between the Pakistani Prime Minister and Chinese Premier within one year greatly promoted the development of friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries and strengthened the friendship between the two peoples.
In 1961, by voting for the bill for the restoration of China’s legitimate rights in the UN, which had been put to vote in the UN General Assembly, the Pakistani Government took a step forward in the course of improving Sino-Pakistani relations. In 1962, the two countries, through friendly talks, reached an agreement in principle on the position and alignment of the Sino-Pakistani boundary.
In March 1963, the two countries signed a boundary agreement on China’s Xinjiang and the adjacent areas whose defense was under the actual control of Pakistan. In February 1964, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Pakistan, and in December, Pakistani President Ayub Khan visited China.
In March 1966, President Liu Shaoqi visited Pakistan. Between 1965 and 1971, as a sponsor country for the aforesaid bill, Pakistan supported the restoration of China’s legitimate fights in the UN. The 1970s saw the steady development of Sino-Pakistani relations and continuous strengthening of friendly cooperation between the two governments and peoples.
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In November 1970, Pakistani President Yahya Khan visited China. While in Prime Minister, Bhutto visited China three times respectively in 1972, 1974, and 1976. After coming into power, Zia-ul Haq visited China in December 1977. The 1980s witnessed the frequent exchange of visits between the Chinese and Pakistani leaders and further consolidation and development of friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries.
Khunjerab Pass: Start of a New Phase
In May 1980, Pakistani President Zia-ul Haq visited China. In June 1981, Premier Zhao Ziyang visited Pakistan. In August 1982, the two countries signed the protocol on opening Khunjerab Pass on the Sino-Pakistani border. In October the same year, President Zia-ul Haq visited China again. In March 1984, President Li Xiannian visited Pakistan. In November 1985, Pakistani Prime Minister Junejo visited China. In June 1987, Premier Zhao Zhiyang visited Pakistan again. In May 1988, Prime Minister Junejo paid another visit to China. In February 1989, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited China, and in November, Premier Li Peng visited Pakistan.
Since the 1990s, great changes took place in the international situation. Instead of being affected by the changing situation, the time-tested friendship and cooperation between China and Pakistan further developed.
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In May 1990s, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Wan Li, visited Pakistan. In September the same year, Pakistani President Ishaq Khan visited China and attended the 11th Asian Games as the chief guest. In February 1991, Pakistani Prime Minister Shariff visited China, and in October, President Yang Shangqun visited Pakistan.
In October 1992, Prime Minister Shariff visited China again. In December 1993, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Li Ruihuan visited Pakistan, and in the same month, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto paid another visit to China. In December 1994, Pakistan’s President Leghari visited China. In September 1995, invited by the Chinese Government Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto attended the 4th World Women Conference sponsored by the UN in Beijing ad a special guest.
In November the same year, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Qiao Shi visited Pakistan. In December 1996, President Jiang Zemin, invited by Pakistan, paid a state visit to the country. It was a big event in Sino-Pakistani relations, and the leaders of the two countries decided to establish an all-around cooperative partnership into the 21st century.
President Jiang Zemin made an important speech entitled Carrying Forward Friendly and Neighborly Relations from Generation to Generation and Working Together for a Better Tomorrow during his visit to Pakistan, expounding for the first time China’s policy toward South Asia. In April 1997, President Leghari visited China. In February 1998, Prime Minister Sharif visited China. In April 1999, Chairman Li Peng of the Standing Committee of the NPC visited Pakistan. In June of the same year, Prime Minister Sharif visited China again.
In January 2000, Pakistan’s Chief Executive General Musharraf paid a working visit to China. In September the same year, President Jiang Zemin met him during the UN Millennium Summit held in New York.
50th Anniversary of Pak-China Relations
2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Pakistani diplomatic relations, and colorful celebrations were held in the two countries. In May the same year, Premier Zhu Rongji was invited to visit Pakistan. In December, President Musharraf paid a state visit to China. In January 2002, he made a stopover in Beijing on his way to Nepal to attend the SAARC Summit. In March the same year, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo visited Pakistan as head of a Chinese Government delegation and attended the groundbreaking ceremony of Gwadar Port, a joint project to be built by China and Pakistan.
In May, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan visited Pakistan. In early June, President Jiang Zemin met President Musharraf at Alma-Ata during the CICA Summit. At the end of June, the Pakistani Foreign Minister of State Haque visited China. In early August, while President Musharraf was in Beijing for a stopover after visiting Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, President Jiang Zemin met him.
In January 2003, Pakistani Speaker Hussain called on Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC Li Peng while attending the meeting of the Executive Council of AAPP held in Beijing. In March, Prime Minister Jamali paid an official visit to China, and during his visit, he and the Chinese Premier jointly announced the founding of the China-Pakistan Friendship Forum.
Almost all of the Chinese leaders have visited Pakistan, and almost all Pakistani leaders have visited China. The mutual visits are important to refresh the existing friendship and strengthen the ties further. In the current visit, it is expected that respective ministries, departments, organizations, etc., have completed their homework and formulated comprehensive policies and strategies already. We wish him a safe journey and a fruitful visit.
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.