Pakistan- China Relations

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A time-tested friendship

By Anwar Kemal


India Today , October 13,2016
president and mrs Z.A Bhutto

One of the most important goals of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to safeguard and develop its multidimensional relations with China

The time is November 14, 1970; the place is the Pakistan ambassador’s old residence in Beijing. President Yahya Khan is hosting a return banquet for Premier Zhou Enlai. The president’s meetings with Chairman Mao and the Chinese premier have gone extremely well. Pakistan is assured of generous economic and military assistance.

But that is not the main cause of Yahya’s buoyant spirits. Pursuant to President Nixon’s personal request, the president on November 10 had conveyed to Premier Zhou Enlai a top secret message that the United States wanted to enter into negotiations with China, that it would never gang up against China, and that he (i.e. Nixon) wanted to send a high level representative to China to initiate discussions. After consulting with Chairman Mao and Vice-Chairman Lin Piao, Premier Zhou informed President Yahya Khan that China would be willing to receive President Nixon’s representative in Beijing, specifically to discuss the Taiwan question.

During the banquet, the Chinese premier toasted Yahya Khan as the next president of Pakistan, implying that he would continue to hold office after next month’s general elections. To avoid embarrassment, the media representatives present were requested not to report this portion of the Chinese premier’s toast.

After dinner Premier Zhou was seen off by the president, and the junior officers also quietly headed for the exit as instructed earlier by our ambassador. When Yahya Khan saw us leaving he called us “badtamiz” in mock anger, while summoning us to the main drawing room where he was sprawled comfortably on the carpet. He made us sit next to him to listen to the ghazals.

Sometime later the deputy chairman planning commission M M Ahmed appeared with embassy counsellor Obaidullah Khan, who proudly declared “Ho giya, Sir!” President Yahya teased him by inquiring “Larka hua ya larki?” Obaidullah Khan was referring to the Chinese credit. The Pakistan delegation had been expecting 300 million renminbi but reportedly at Chairman Mao Zedong’s initiative the loan was increased to Yuan 500 million, to cover East and West Pakistan.

While the musical soiree was in progress at the embassy residence, one of the most destructive cyclones in history was wreaking havoc in East Pakistan, killing lacs of people in low-lying coastal areas and wrecking the foundations of the two-wing state. In retrospect, it is astonishing that President Yahya Khan declined to spend some time in the east wing when his plane made a stop-over in Dhaka. If only he had stopped to help the cyclone victims he might have denied Sheikh Mujibur Rahman his deadliest election campaign issue.

In the December 1970 general elections the Awami League swept the east wing and the PPP prevailed in the west wing; Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s lop-sided majority of 160-81 over the PPP provoked Mr Bhutto to boycott the new National Assembly. And so the stage was set for the breakup of Pakistan within a year. Following the army action on March 25, 1971, and Sheikh Mujib’s arrest, India provided arms and training to the mukti bahini as a prelude to its invasion of East Pakistan. On the eve of India’s invasion of East Pakistan, Mr Bhutto rushed to China for help as a special envoy of President Yahya Khan; he was accompanied by Air Marshal Rahim and Lt-General Gul Hasan,

Under the shadow of the recently signed Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty, the Chinese leadership made it plain to the special envoy that China would not be able to intervene militarily on Pakistan’s side. Premier Zhou urged Mr Bhutto to reach a political settlement in East Pakistan and to avoid a war with India. To drive the point home about the likely outcome of a war with a more powerful adversary, the Chinese arranged the screening of two Second World War movies: Tora! Tora! Tora! and Admiral Yamamoto. Mr Bhutto put up a brave front during the press briefing when he thundered that in case of an Indian attack, “the colour of the Indus and the Ganges would change”.

China condemned the Indian invasion of East Pakistan in the strongest possible terms, but like the Nixon administration, Chinese leaders had probably concluded that Pakistan’s position in the east wing was beyond salvation. After General Niazi’s bombast and bluster, they were greatly disappointed that 70,000 troops surrendered on December 16, only three weeks after India had invaded.

In January 1972 Mr Bhutto, president at last but of a truncated Pakistan, visited China again. Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou assured him of substantial military and economic assistance. The military segment comprised jet fighters, tanks and other hardware and it was all gratis. The Y500 million credit was to be used exclusively in West Pakistan, two-thirds for projects and one-third for commodities, the latter to help repair the war damage and to meet shortfalls owing to the suspension of western aid.

At the time China was a poor country, having suffered immeasurably during the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution. Yet the Chinese people shared their scarce resources with the people of Pakistan and subsequently converted the Y500m credit into a grant.

The Karakoram Highway project was an even greater symbol of Pak-China cooperation. Many Chinese and Pakistani workers and engineers sacrificed their lives to build this high altitude highway. The project cost several hundred million dollars in the 1970s and today the cost would be about five times greater. This writer recalls Vice-Minister Mme Chen Mu Hua telling ambassador Agha Shahi in 1972 that a one truckload of fuel had to be sent as backup for every three Chinese trucks ferrying supplies through the most rugged terrain on earth.

The writer recalls shipping drawings for the 1,500-ton per day capacity Chinese supplied Larkana sugar mill to the Heavy Mechanical Complex Taxila, which was part of China’s policy to help our heavy industry becomes self-reliant. Subsequently HMC Taxila was able to export similar plants to Bangladesh and Indonesia.

During this period Pakistan began to develop an indigenous defence industry with Chinese assistance. Pakistan today is able to manufacture quality hardware such as the Al-Khalid main battle tank as well as jet fighter aircraft in collaboration with China.

In 1972-73, China’s diplomatic support to Pakistan proved crucial. Premier Zhou assured Pakistan’s ambassador Mr Agha Shahi that China would oppose Bangladesh’s entry into the United Nations until the Pakistani prisoners of war were released. China also lobbied with President Nixon and Dr Kissinger on behalf of Pakistan during their visits to China in 1972 and 1973. The Chinese premier told Dr Kissinger that the United States should not forget Pakistan, the bridge it had used to reach China.

Blessed with long memories, Chinese leaders remained grateful to Pakistan for its role in piercing China’s isolation in the 1960s by starting an airline service to China, the first non-Communist country to do so. In retaliation US President Lyndon Johnson had cancelled US aid for Dhaka airport and subsequently gave Foreign Minister Bhutto a severe tongue lashing.

Pakistan-China friendship is an uninterrupted history of mutual cooperation and help since the 1960s. True, the world has changed. The Cold War has become a memory; the Long March generation of Chinese leaders has long left the scene; China and Russia have made up; lastly China and India have agreed to resolve the boundary question through peaceful negotiations. Some observers speculate that China’s growing economic power, its self-confidence, and its growing trade and cultural relations with India have reduced Pakistan’s importance. For example, the volume of China’s trade with India is many times greater than the volume of China-Pakistan trade.

To allay such concerns, the Chinese have repeatedly assured us that China’s relations with Pakistan are in a class apart; that China-Pakistan relations have a strategic dimension, unlike relations with other countries.

The Chinese are known for their discretion, so one should not expect them to accuse India of exploiting American fears about China’s growing economic might. The Chinese can read in every American newspaper, however, that the proposed US-India nuclear deal is part of America’s declared policy to build up India, “the world’s biggest democracy,” as a world power to act as a bulwark against China. A secondary US objective is to use India to curb the “Islamists”.

A remarkable feature of Pakistan-China relations, which span 55 years, is their constancy irrespective of changes of governments or individual leaders. Every government in Pakistan since the 1960s has accorded priority to relations with China. The other remarkable feature of the relationship is that Chinese leaders have at different times encouraged Pakistan to safeguard its relations with the United States and have even lobbied with the US to help Pakistan. They have also encouraged us to establish normal relations with India and to resolve our disputes with that country through dialogue.

The two governments have removed many tariff and non-tariff barriers in order to boost the volume of bilateral trade. Apart from encouraging Chinese investments in mining, communications, and energy they are also endeavouring to increase cooperation in the educational, scientific, technological and cultural fields. The Chasma nuclear power project is a shining example of Pak-China cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Even though the convergence of Pakistan-China security interests is decisive in binding the two countries closer together, it makes good sense to broaden the base of the relationship.

To sum up, one of the most important goals of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to safeguard and develop its multidimensional relations with China. Knowing that Pakistan and China share common long-term strategic interests, based on history, geography, the regional and global security environment and the potential for mutually beneficial economic gains, the people and government of Pakistan will do everything possible to safeguard this time-tested friendship.

2012: Pak navy gets its first fast-attack ship from China

From the archives of The Times of India

Pakistan’s navy commissioned its first fast attack craft armed with missiles at a Chinese shipyard, with its chief admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila saying that the force was fully prepared to counter any elements challenging the country’s sovereignty. Sandila was the chief guest at the commissioning of PNS Azmat, Pakistan’s first “fast attack craft (missile)” at Xingang shipyard in Tianjin.

He said the vessel’s induction will supplement the Pakistani navy’s combat potential. Describing the commissioning as a milestone in defence and strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China, Sandila said, “This ship’s immense firepower coupled with stealthy features makes it a real versatile platform which would not only prove vital for ensuring effective presence in our area of operations, but would bring a new dimension of operation of stealthy platform of this tonnage.” Sandila said a second fast attack craft will be completed in Pakistan by the end of 2012.

Pak set to build 2 N-power plants.

Pakistan plans to build two coastal nuclear power plants with a capacity of 1,000 MW each in Karachi to meet the future energy needs of the financial hub, according to a media report published. Karachi currently has an aging nuclear power plant that can generate 80 MW. Work on the third and fourth Chashma Nuclear Power Plants is under way.

China - Pakistan Economic Corridor ( CPEC )

Raj Chengappa , India's new rules of engagement , "India Today" 5/9/2016

India Today , September 5,2016

2017: Pakistan integrates into the Chinese Economy

Ananth Krishnan , China’s new colony “India Today” 31/7/2017

Chinese projects in Pakistan 2017 “India Today” 31/7/2017

See graphic:

Chinese projects in Pakistan 2017


Imran gets 16 deals, CPEC’s social expansion

Saibal Dasgupta, Imran’s trip to China gets Pak 16 deals and CPEC’s social expansion, November 4, 2018: The Times of India

China has accepted the demand of Pakistan’s Imran Khan government to expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to include social development programmes. Khan’s party, PTI, had during the elections criticised the $60 billion CPEC for being infrastructure heavy while neglecting social development and poverty eradication issues. A Pakistani minister recently said the programme would be reviewed from the financing cost point of view.

Khan met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday. He presided over the signing of 16 agreements covering a range of economic and social issues between the two countries.

During discussions with the visiting Pakistani PM, Chinese leaders said there would be no reduction in the size and dimension of CPEC projects, significant statements because of reports that Beijing was considering shelving some projects and because even Pakistan’s new government favours a smaller CPEC to reduce its debt burden.

“There has been no change in the number of CPEC projects. If there is going to be any change, there will be an increase (in projects) going forward,” Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou told reporters after a deal signing ceremony. “The CPEC will be introduced to more areas of Pakistan and also tilt in favour of areas relating to people’s livelihoods,” he said, adding: “Hence going forward, both the areas of CPEC and the contents of CPEC will be enriched.”

China is still silent about Pakistan’s immediate request for loans to tide over a difficult financial condition. It needs $8 billion to overcome financial problems this year.

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