Interview by Pakistan Observer
H.E Mr. Moin Ul Haque, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to China
Pakistan and China enjoy historic, unique and special bilateral relations. It is a timeless and time-tested friendship nurtured by successive generations of the leadership and the peoples of the two countries. Regardless of change in regional and international political landscape, our two countries have always stood together and have always extended solidarity and support to each other.
Many poetic expressions have been used to describe our friendship like “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey”. After over seven decades of diplomatic relations, our two countries enjoy relationship marked by strong political support, strategic trust and practical cooperation. This is truly an All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership which has few parallel in the history of interstate relationship.
Strongest area (trade, tourism, cultural cooperation, economic partnership etc.)
Rather than any stand-alone area of cooperation, the bilateral relations between the two countries are spread over wide spectrum of areas including trade, investment, industry, agriculture, IT, tourism, education, culture and people-to-people exchanges.
While there is a strong G2G cooperation and support across a broad range of spectrum, it is the affection and goodwill between our two people which has created a strong bond of affinity and brotherhood. It is truly a heart to heart relationship.
In recent times, there is a strong emphasis on economic cooperation; China is our largest trading partner and a prime source of foreign investment. We also have robust defence ties while cultural cooperation is rooted in ancient history and isbeing further strengthened through frequent people-to-people exchanges.
How do Chinese rate friendship between the two countries?
During my last two years tenure in China, I have visited over twenty Chinese cities where I had the opportunity of meeting with the cross-section of people from diverse background.
Wherever I went, I was greeted with profound respect and special attention. Almost every Chinese I came across expressed his emotions for Pakistan by using term “Ba Tie” meaning “Iron Brother” which is only reserved for the people of Pakistan. All Chinese describe Pakistan as a reliable friend who comes to China’s help in difficult times.
These sentiments of Chinese people about Pakistan-China friendship are indeed touching and at the same time reassuring about the promising future of our relationship.
B-to-B cooperation between the two countries?
Like anywhere else, COVID-19 pandemic presented a set of challenges for both our countries in terms of trade and bilateral exchanges. However, the two countries ensured that it would not impact our overall economic cooperation. Despite disruption of regular fights, our bilateral trade last year touched record volume of US$ 28 billion.
We also ensured that the progress on CPEC projects was not stalled. A large number of Chinese engineers and workers continued to travel to Pakistan for ensuring the normal pace of CPEC projects.
We extensively used online platforms to connect our traders and businessmen and also participated in a large number of business events in China. Embassy of Pakistan set up a large number of Pakistani pavilions in various Chinese cities to promote Pakistani products and culture. To reinforce our connectivity efforts, we have also increased our presence on Chinese social media andE-commerce platforms to strengthen bilateral economic ties.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is indeed a flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative. It has transformed economic landscape of Pakistan upgrading our transport and communication infrastructure, addressing energy shortfalls and developing Gwadar as the hub of regional trade and investment.
Due to CPEC, thousands of new jobs have been created, remote areas have been connected and people’s livelihood has improved thus contributing to overall socio-economic development of Pakistan.
Propaganda against CPEC
Yes, there are some detractors of CPEC who are not only envious of Pakistan-China friendship but are also working against progress and development of Pakistan.
Recent attacks on CPEC projects and Chinese nationals in Pakistan are handiworks of these hostile elements. Despite these challenges and nefarious designs of our adversaries, CPEC continues to move forward bringing prosperity to our two countries and the region at large. Going forward, we have now invited third parties to participate in CPEC projects.
In order to deal with the negative propaganda about CPEC, role of media, academia and other opinion leaders and influencers is important in shaping a positive public discourse about CPEC. We look forward to their contributions to tell good stories about CPEC and its socio-economic impact on the lives of the people.
China has been a prime source of investment into Pakistan for many years. Initially, major chunk of investment was in the energy and infrastructure projects.
However, today the Chinese companies are investing in wide array of sectors of Pakistani economy including textile, automobile, new energy vehicles, agriculture, bio-technology, mining and petrochemicals.
Special Economic Zones being built as part of CPEC offer attractive incentives and facilities for Chinese companies to invest in Pakistan. The response of Chinese enterprises is very encouraging. In future, these zones would become a major recipient of Chinese investment and play a leading role in the up-gradation of Pakistan’s industrial capacity.
Current trade volume
As mentioned earlier, China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. After the launching of the 2nd Phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement in January 2020, there is a steady increase in trade between our two countries.
Last year, bilateral trade volume reached a record level of around US$ 28 billion. Pakistan’s exports to China also touched its highest level of US$ 3.6 billion. The momentum continues into this year and we hope that Pakistan’s exports would reach US$ 4 billion by the end of this year.
How did China respond to floods?
China was amongst the first countries to announce and dispatch flood relief support for Pakistan. Chinese leadership sent condolences messages to their Pakistani counterparts while the government announced a generous relief assistance package of RMB 400 million. To ensure quick dispatch of relief items, an air corridor was set up with dozens of flights transporting essential relief items to flood affected areas.
The outpouring of sympathy and support for flood victims of Pakistan is continuing from all across China including provincial and local governments, enterprises, NGOs and general public. There are many touching stories with people donating their entire monthly salaries and children giving yearly pocket money.
China has once again stood with us in these difficult times and proven to be a trusted partner and most reliable friend.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
With the growing number of member states, observers and dialogue partners, SCO is transforming into the world’s largest regional organization in a short span of time. This is indeed a testimony to its appeal, robust agenda and its focus on new areas of trade, investment, tourism and climate change.
SCO is providing new opportunities for building new developmental space for open, mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation in Central Asia, South Asia and Eurasia region.
Pakistan views SCO as an important platform for regional development and connectivity. After the devastating floods in Pakistan, we would like to see SCO giving more impetus to its climate change agenda. We would also aim to continue our ongoing cooperation for regional connectivity and other areas like agriculture, renewable energy, inter-regional trade and tourism.
President Xi Jinping met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Samarkand on the sidelines of the SCO summit
High level exchanges are a hallmark of Pakistan-China bilateral ties. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s held his first meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of SCO Summit in Samarkand after assuming the office.
The meeting was marked by traditional warmth as well as expression of exception mutual trust and understanding. In his remarks, President Xi praised Prime Minister Shehbaz as “a person of pragmatism and efficiency” and also lauded his longstanding commitment to China-Pakistan friendship. The two sides agreed to inject a fresh momentum to their economic cooperation and give a new impetus to CPEC.
Pakistani students in Chinese universities
For many years, China is a preferred destination for higher education for Pakistani students. In fact, it is the largest destination for our students which is nearly 28,000 in various Chinese universities across China.
The process of return of Pakistani students to China has started earlier this year. The first batch of the students came in the month of June. As per the new Chinese policy, restrictions on return of international students have been relaxed and they have started to return gradually to their universities. Embassy of Pakistan remains in constant touch with the relevant Chinese and Pakistani authorities to facilitate our students in this regard.