President Xi Jinpingís historic visit
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been accorded an unprecedented welcome when he arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit. During his visit, China and Pakistan are expected to sign infrastructure and energy deals estimated at $45 billion. The Financial Times reported that $34 billion of the $45-billion investment will go into new energy projects, while another $11 billion will be invested into new infrastructure projects linked to the Pakistan-China economic corridor. The Karachi-Gwadar-Kashgar rail and road link is significant part of this project. China is expected to finalize with Pakistan, a deal for eight diesel electric submarines, which will enhance Pakistanís capability for a second nuclear strike. A report in Bloomberg suggested that Pakistani naval commanders wished to equip conventional submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles. According to analysts it will help Pakistan gain the ability to fire nuclear weapons at sea, keeping pace with rival India.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes that Chinese investment would help overcome energy crisis, which is a major impediment to economic revival and growth. Load shedding has adversely impacted business environment and caused hardships to the people in general; and with fast track implementation of projects, PML-N government would redeem its pledge of ridding the country from load shedding. Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif said that the whole Pakistani nation was waiting to give a historic welcome to the state guest. He said Chinese presidentís visit would open vistas of opportunities for investment, which will give boost to economic activities in Pakistan. He said that the under-construction energy projects which are being undertaken with Chinese help will start producing electricity by 2017, and help rid the nation of load shedding. China has always stood by Pakistan in times of adversity; and Pakistan cherishes friendship with the most committed friend.
Sino-Pakistan relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to break relations with Taiwan and recognize the Peopleís Republic of China. Pakistan had supported China over the issue of Hong Kong, which has already merged with the mainland. Pakistan also supports Chinaís stand on Taiwan, and condemns the machinations against China in the name of Tibet. China on its part supported Pakistan in its just causes, and helped Pakistan in variety of projects including Gwadar Port Project and earlier Saindak Copper Project in Balochistan. In 1970s, Machine Tool Factory of Karachi and Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila were also established with Chinaís help. China has extended full cooperation to make Pakistan self-reliant by providing know-how with a view to ensuring territorial integrity of Pakistan. Beijing and Islamabad are involved in joint production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft with the most sophisticated avionics.
The launch of JF-17 Thunder aircraft production project was described as a giant leap towards indigenization, which would help Pakistan maintain minimum level of deterrence in both conventional and unconventional fields. Pakistan has always appreciated and expressed its gratitude for the continued Chinese help for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan. However, Pak-China friendship is a major source of concern for anti-Pakistan lobby. Such lobbies are trying to create fissures between China and Pakistan; but given the time-tested friendship they are bound to fail. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a source of threat to those countries competing with China, and also to the regional countries that feel that Gwadar Port would lessen the importance of their ports. During its five-year tenure, the PPP-led government was marred with allegations of corruption and nepotism. And awarding Gwadar Port project to China was the best thing it did.
In February, 2013 PPP-led government had formally awarded a multi-billion dollars contract for construction and operation of Gwadar Port to China with the hope that the portís development would open up new vistas of progress in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan. Under the contract, the port will remain the property of Pakistan, but will be operated by the state-run Chinese firm - China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC). Earlier, the contract was given to the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), which abandoned the project on the plea that Pakistan failed to meet obligations under the 40-year port-handling agreement signed in Feb 2007. But it transpired that PSA had not invested a single penny to develop the port; and the plan had been alleged to have been contrived by then minister for shipping and ports Babar Ghauri so that Karachi Port may not lose significance.
One would not know why then president Asif Ali Zardari had praised the role played by Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Khan Ghauri at the of ceremony for the transfer of port operations to China. Anyhow, the reasons for Chinese interest in Gwadar are not far to seek. Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet were closer to Pakistani ports than to any port in China and development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East via Gwadar held great prospects. Secondly, 60 per cent of Chinese import of crude came from countries in the Gulf. The fact remains that the port has the potential to give economic boost to its economy and make Pakistan as the trade corridor for Central Asian States, China and the Gulf. Pakistan could offer Central Asian countries the access to sea through Gwadar Port, which will be economical and time-saving.
Having that said, China is all set to expedite the development of the port, which will increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the province, and consequently per capita income of the people of Balochistan. Both countries are on one page so far as their strategic thinking and policy framework are concerned. Pak-China excellent relations are reflective of strong bonds and friendship, free of petty prejudices. China is, indeed, a peace-loving country and it has neither bullied its smaller neighbours nor has it ever tried to extend hegemony over other countries. It is more interested in improving its economy rather than engaging itself in any military entanglement because it believed that economic strength can help increase military strength. However, China already has capability and resources to give adequate response to those harboring evil designs against China.