Enhanced Pakistan-China defence cooperation
General Liang Guanglie, China’s Minister for Defence, led a 17 member high powered delegation to Islamabad earlier this week during which the two countries concluded three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) aimed at enhancing Pakistan’s capabilities to fight terror. Under the accord, the three services of the two countries would hold joint military exercises, while China would provide four trainer aircraft for PAF and 60 million Yuan for Armed Forces training. Pakistan’s Minister for Defence Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar and his Chinese counterpart Gen Liang Guanglie signed the agreements and agreed to strengthen the military cooperation and strategic communication at all levels to overcome challenges being faced by the two countries. They discussed security environment in the region and stressed the need for joint efforts to weed out terrorism. They also agreed to share intelligence gathering which was essential for defeating terrorists. Gen Liang has assured that China would continue to provide military and economic assistance to Pakistan and support its stance on different issues.
Later the high powered Chinese defence delegation called on the President and Prime Minister, who stressed on taking Sino-Pak bilateral trade, defence and commercial ties to new heights as the friendship between the two countries has matured into a comprehensive strategic partnership. The President reiterated that strengthening and enhancing cooperation with China in all fields is one of the key principles guiding Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan, while raising the issue of Indian intelligence agencies’ involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan, has asked for Chinese support to build counter-terrorism capacity. The Chinese Minister appreciated Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism, assuring that China will always stand with Pakistan in its time of need. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in his meeting with the Chinese Defence Minister said that Pakistan has evidence of the involvement of the Indian intelligence agencies in sponsoring militancy and activities of terrorism in Pakistan from Afghanistan. He said that the increase of the UN & NATO troops in South and East Afghanistan is creating problems in Baluchistan. Pakistan has the will and the resolve to deal with these problems but needs Chinese support to build its counter-terrorism capacity.
Indeed the friendship and brotherly ties with China are not only time tested but China has always stood by Pakistan in its hour of need, whether it was war or a natural calamity. Chinese support in Pakistan’s defence capability and indigenization endeavours have been based on solid foundations. China is the only country that has provided transfer of technology, soft loans and even technical expertise with no strings attached. Whether it was tanks and field guns, destroyers and frigates or the aviation industry, Chinese support has been invaluable and proved to be a source of strength and reliance for Pakistan. On its part, Pakistan too, despite pressures from the West, has stood by China and maintained its relations despite pressures from the west to abandon it. After its independence, the new People’s Republic of China was cut off from the world, having diplomatic recognition only from a handful of nations.
It was excluded from the U.N. It soon became embroiled in the Korean War and the Cold War, which brought further isolation. Its economy was stagnated. China–Pakistan relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to break relations with the Republic of China or Taiwan and recognize the People’s Republic of China. Pakistan also helped China become a member of the United Nations and has also been instrumental in providing excellent relations of China with the Muslim world. Pakistan played a leading role in bridging the communication gap between China and the West, through Henry Kissinger’s secret visit in 1971, which became the forerunner of US President Nixon’s historic tour of Beijing, establishing to the world that China was a lawful entity.
Today China has come a long way from those turbulent times; it is a factor of stability in the region; is the world’s most populous and industrious nation; the world’s third largest economy and trading nation, has become a global innovator in science and technology, and is building a world-class university system. It has an increasingly modern military and commands diplomatic respect. China today has over 2,100 peacekeeping personnel deployed in about a dozen nations worldwide—more than any other member of the UN Security Council.
In this period of global economic meltdown, China not only has a stable economy but it holds roughly $1.5 trillion in U.S. assets, at least 65 percent of China’s total foreign assets, and it is the second biggest foreign holder of U.S. debt after Japan. Pak-China joint ventures to produce JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Trainer aircraft, Al-Khalid Tank, F-22 Naval Frigates have given a new dimension to Pak-China cooperation in the field of defense. Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was also established with Chinese assistance. The Karakoram Highway, the strategic port of Gawadar are a manifestation of China’s sustained interest in Pakistan, which make it imperative for us to reach out to our Chinese friends for our common endeavours for building a better future for our peoples and overcome the challenges to both nations and strive for prosperity. Time and again, Pakistan has pursued relations with the West, which has sporadically provided it weapons and defence equipment but only when it needed Pakistan’s support and later dumped it or even sanctioned it; pushing Pakistan back into economic morass. China on the other hand is the stable friend that has always been there for Pakistan.
It is high time that Pakistan recognizes the paramount role of China, and consolidates the relationship in light of the benefits the nation can draw from a deeper cooperation with Beijing, on a whole range of issues of common concern, including the strategic matters of defence, electrical power, trade, industry and nuclear energy rather than being spurned by the West at its whims. The visit by the Chinese Defence Minister has definitely enhanced Pak-China defence cooperation raising it to unprecedented heights but it needs to go even higher. Pak-China defence cooperation enhanced, Sultan M Hali