ISLAMABAD: Former US secretary of state Dr Henry Kissinger recognised Pakistan’s ‘key’ role in arranging his secret visit from Islamabad to Beijing in 1971 for making breakthrough in China-US relations.
Pakistan’s pivotal role was acknowledged during a high-level webinar event organised by China’s State Council in Beijing. The event marked ‘50 Years of China-US Relations’ with keynote speeches from former US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger and Senator Mushahid Hussain on Pakistan’s pivotal role in arranging Dr Kissinger’s secret journey to China.
In a statement issued here, the China Development Forum said that China marked the 50th Anniversary of Dr Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing from Islamabad in which Senator Mushahid Hussain said that it was an honour for Pakistan to play a pivotal role in the China-US opening.
Dr Henry Kissinger praised Pakistan for its role during that period and how President Yahya Khan, acted as a go-between China and US, communicating secretly with Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and President Richard Nixon, which led to Dr Kissinger’s path-breaking journey in a PIA plane from Islamabad to Beijing on July 9, 1971.
Dr Kissinger recounted how the first message from China was in the form of a handwritten note, which was personally dictated to him in the White House by the then Pakistan Ambassador in Washington, Agha Hilaly.
Speaking next after Dr Kissinger, Senator Mushahid Hussain, representing Pakistan, said that this historic breakthrough in China-US relations became possible due to the ‘indispensable role of Pakistan. Pakistan enjoyed the trust of both China and the United States, when then President, Richard Nixon, had tremendous affection and goodwill for Pakistan’.
Senator Mushahid Hussain said that Pakistan’s then President General Yahya Khan, once entrusted with this task by both President Richard Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai, undertook this sensitive mission with ‘military precision, secrecy and deception’, with an official announcement of a decoy visit by Dr Kissinger to Nathiagali.
The pretext was that the American official was resting due to an upset stomach, while he had secretly flown to Beijing. He said that President Yahya relied only on a two-man team of his top diplomats, Foreign Secretary Sultan Mohammed Khan and Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Agha Hilaly.
Senator Mushahid Hussain said: “It was an honour for Pakistan to play such an important role in the shaping of history, as Dr Kissinger’s visit to China led to a tectonic shift in the global balance of power in 1971.”
He said that normalization of relations had been beneficial for not just China and the US but also Asia and the world. “China had helped the US win the Cold War and the US helped China come out of isolation which led later to China’s reform and opening up policy that has transformed China.”
Senator Mushahid Hussain concluded that 50 years later, one lesson of China-US relations is that cooperation is good for both the countries, and there is no room for outmoded policies like containment or a New Cold War.
The China Development Forum was attended by high officials, policy makers, economists, opinion and business leaders in Beijing, while Dr Kissinger and Senator Mushahid Hussain spoke virtually from New York and Islamabad.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2021