ISLAMABAD: “China must join the SAARC as China is the only regional power which can bring peace and stability to the region”, said Ambassador Riaz Khokhar, former Foreign Secretary, while chairing a Roundtable Discussion at the Pakistan-China Institute on the recently published book ‘The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics’, by Andrew Small, who was also personally present on the occasion.
The book by Andrew Small, who is Transatlantic Fellow with the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, is the first by a Western writer on Pakistan-China relations. Andrew Small presented an overview of his book and its major arguments to a select gathering of dignitaries, think tank representatives and intellectuals. The China-Pakistan relationship, he stated, has entered into a new phase of cooperation after 2011 with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, but emphasized that to take advantage of these developments it was imperative to first improve the security situation in Pakistan. He termed China as Pakistan’s great economic hope and its most trusted military partner, while Pakistan, he said, lies at the heart of China’s geostrategic developmental ‘Silk Road’ initiatives, and termed Pakistan as ‘China’s only real friend’.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, while exchanging views with the participants, cited three reasons why Pakistan-China relations are ‘so strong, stable and resilient for over 50 years, a unique bond in the annals of contemporary international relations’. Pakistan, said the Senator, is the “only country to unreservedly support all the core interests of China, and these interests have comprehensive national consensus within Pakistan, amongst all segments of society”.
According to Senator Mushahid Hussain these Chinese core interests are: China’s unity and territorial integrity, the primacy of the role of the Communist Party of China in building China as a modern global power, the peaceful rise of China as part of Asian resurgence in the 21st Century, issues like Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and the South China Sea. Secondly, he stressed that even in the Cold War in the 1950s, despite Pakistan’s strident anti-Communism and membership of pro-American military alliances like SEATO & CENTO, unlike Moscow, Beijing was more understanding of Pakistan’s security compulsions vis-a-vis India. Thirdly, he underlined that “China and Pakistan have a strong base and history of bilateral friendly relations based on consistency and reliability and there were no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in these ties, with both sides standing by each other through thick and thin”.
Senator Mushahid lauded China for understanding and appreciating the constraints and pressures Pakistan has had to face, and credited the mature Chinese leadership in this regard. He also highlighted the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a platform for bringing stability, strength and development not only by serving as a uniting factor in the federation of Pakistan, but also promoting regional cooperation in ‘Greater South Asia’ which now includes China, Myanmar, Iran and Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khokhar stressed the need for Pakistan to settle domestic political and economic affairs, and stated that Pakistan should follow the Chinese vision of undertaking development projects which are for the benefit of the people as a whole. He stated Pakistan should act pro-actively and must follow-up with courage and commitment for the economic expansion opportunities afforded in its relationship with China.
Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood, prominent academic Prof ILhan Niaz, eminent commentator Farhan Bokhari, Madame Bao Jiqing and Du Genqi from the Chinese Embassy, and others also shared their views to strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and China.