Impregnable friendly bonds

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Malik M. Ashraf

The suicide attack at Besham on Tuesday in which five Chinese engineers working on Dasu Dam and a Pakistani driver were killed was the third such incident in little over a week on Chinese interests in Pakistan where it has invested more than $ 65 billion on infrastructure and power-producing projects under CPEC. These attacks ostensibly are a sequel to a well-orchestrated plan to sabotage not only the Chinese interests in Pakistan but also a sinister move to obstruct the transformational impact of CPEC on Pakistan’s economy.
This sinister plan is being executed by some outside as well as internal enemies of the country. The immediate impact of this attack was that Chinese companies working on the Tarbela Dam extension project, Dasu and Diamir Basha Dams suspended their work due to security concerns. However, 250 Chinese are continuing to work on Mohmand Dam expressing satisfaction over the security situation in the project area.
The civil and military leadership of Pakistan have vowed not to allow the perpetrators of this dastardly attack to go unpunished and shown unflinching solidarity with the government of China and its people. Immediately after this tragic happening Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Syed Mohsin Naqvi and Information Minister Ataullah Tarar visited the Chinese embassy, condoled the death of Chinese engineers and assured the ambassador to take foolproof measures for the protection of the Chinese nationals working on the projects under CPEC.
A probe into the incident is already underway and a Chinese investigation team has also arrived in Pakistan to supplement the efforts in regards to unraveling the culprits behind this attack. Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has briefed the team about the progress on the case besides discussing measures to ensure the security of the Chinese workers.
The most encouraging development notwithstanding these incidents is that it has failed to create a dent in the resolve of the Chinese government to continue work on these projects. A spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed to continue developing bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in completing the second phase of CPEC with high-quality development. China has announced resumption of work on the Tarbela Dam extension project which was halted immediately after the attack. Similarly, the work on other dams is also expected to be resumed shortly,
It surely indicates the strength of relations between Pakistan and China. It is quintessential of impregnable bonds between the two countries. Brazilian lyricist and writer Paulo Coelho de Souza said” Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest…it’s about who came and never left”. What he said is quintessential of the friendship between Pakistan and China which is far beyond and above the realm of normal diplomatic relations. The epithet of ‘iron brothers’ proudly claimed by the two countries reflects the strength of relations between the two countries which have withstood the vicissitudes of times.
Even though Pakistan was a US ally, the development of relations with China has been the cornerstone of its foreign policy. Pakistan has been supporting China on all issues of importance to the latter, especially those relating to China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other sensitive matters such as human rights. It was also Pakistan which orchestrated rapprochement between China and the US in 1972 and consequently, President Nixon travelled to China to meet Mao Zedong Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Premier of China Zhou Enlai, ending China’s global isolation. Chinese leaders do appreciate Pakistan’s role in that regard as well as its steadfastness and unqualified support on issues of concern to her.
Similarly, Pakistan is also greatly indebted to China for her continued unflinching support of Kashmir. It was with the Chinese support that the issue of Kashmir came up for discussion in the meeting of the UNSC after fifty years in the backdrop of the unilateral action by the Modi government to end the special status of IOK.
China has played a significant role in the economic progress of Pakistan. The construction of the KKH Highway, the Heavy Mechanical Complex at Taxila, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chashma Nuclear Plants are the monuments of the ever-spiking relationship. In the backdrop of the US-India deal for the transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regarded as a discriminatory act, China exhibited the strength of the friendship between the two countries by agreeing to help Pakistan in building Chashma IV and V. It has also been extending support to Pakistan regarding its stance for criteria based admittance of new members to the prestigious Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Pakistan and China also have very strong defence ties. It is pertinent to point out that in early March 2017, a Chinese-built Low to medium-altitude Air Defence System was inducted into the air defence system of the Pakistan Army that would considerably enhance its response capability to the current and emerging threats as the Chinese Mobile Air Defence system is capable of tracking and destroying a variety of aerial targets at longer ranges flying at low and medium altitudes. The co-production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft at PAC is yet another milestone in defence relations between the two countries.
China fully understands the challenges being faced by Pakistan, its geo-political relevance, and its contributions towards regional peace and stability and has repeatedly assured full-spectrum support for Pakistan in grappling with those challenges. It has always appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism urging the world as well to acknowledge those achievements.
CPEC a flagship project of BRI has undoubtedly added eternity to the infallible relations between the two states and their people. By becoming part of the CPEC, Pakistan is poised not only to make up for the lost opportunities but also to become an economic powerhouse within the next two decades. Apart from radically changing the dynamics of regional connectivity and trade, it is going to act as a catalyst in the process of Pakistan’s transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.
CPEC is a mix of infrastructure projects, energy-producing units and industrial zones along the corridor routes. The development of infrastructure under the CPEC will lay a firm foundation for the industrialization of Pakistan. The CPEC has been acknowledged as a perfect recipe for lifting the economic profile of the countries which are part of the initiative worldwide. Even the UN has recognized its economic potential and the collateral outcome of promoting peace through economic interdependence. CPEC is a win-win initiative for China, Pakistan and the entire region.
Therefore Pakistan and China not only need to fast-track the completion of projects under CPEC but also make joint and concerted efforts to thwart the designs of detractors of this initiative by eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

The writer is a former diplomat and freelance columnist.