Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan wants to expand trade and investment ties with China ahead of his first official visit to the neighbouring country.

In an op-ed published in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, the premier described the ties between the two countries using the words “longevity, love and trust”.

“There is no relationship like ours which so deeply touches the soul of our people and evokes such strong emotions. Poetic expressions with emotive diction are used to captivate the essence of these fabulous ties.

“Touching stories of mutual support and solidarity in difficult times, transferred from generation to generation, have become an ineffaceable element of our collective consciousness,” he added.

He also explained that “the seed of Pakistan-China friendship has blossomed into an evergreen tree with deep roots and strong branches. It has withstood the vicissitudes of international upheavals and vagaries of domestic changes.”

For Pakistan, relations with China form the cornerstone of our foreign policy, he said.

Geopolitical landscape

Talking about geopolitics landscape, he said that the international landscape had undergone a profound transformation that was unprecedented in its scale and scope.

“Geopolitical tensions are leading to conflicts, resurrection of ideological divide, economic and technological decoupling, and costly arms race. Sadly, this is happening when a multitude of humanity continue to suffer from poverty, disease and hunger,” he lamented.

He said that the imperatives of the 21st century demanded a new paradigm to deal with emerging challenges as well as opportunities and to wean our region away from conflict and conflagration.

“We seek friendly relations with our neighbouring countries on the basis of mutual respect and spirit of cooperation, and desire peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes including Kashmir issue through dialogue and diplomacy based on UN charter and resolutions.

“The very nature and genesis of all these challenges is unique and, if left unattended, they could reverse the march of globalisation and undo the great achievements humankind has made. It surely requires what President Xi has often said: global action, global response and solidarity,” the premier stated.

He said that in light of the unfolding global scenario, the salience of China-Pakistan strategic partnership has increased manifold.

“The imperatives of geography, our common outlook, expanding economic partnership and an acute sense of destiny have made us a natural partner.

“Pakistan is committed to further deepen bilateral ties between our two countries, continue our mutual support on core issues, continue our efforts for regional peace and connectivity and progressively advance our all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation to a new pinnacle of trust and close cooperation,” he reiterated.

Support from China

The premier also highlighted the instances in which China had extended support to Pakistan, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic and during the recent devastating floods.

“The solidarity and support China extended to Pakistan in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic was the vivid manifestation of our time-tested friendship,” he said.

Similarly, after the recent floods in Pakistan, China’s top leadership common people from all walks of life came forward to assist the flood-affected people of Pakistan, he noted.

“I was particularly touched to note that even children, on watching visuals of floods in Pakistan, donated their pocket-money. These moving stories truly reflect the deep affection and close fraternal bonds between our two peoples,” he added.

Pakistan’s economy

Touching upon Pakistan’s economic woes, PM Shehbaz said that the country finds itself “at the anvil of unprecedented changes”. He highlighted that Pakistan, like other countries, faced a number of challenges due to global economic slowdown, rising food and oil prices and supply chain disruptions.

“Despite the global economic headwinds, my government is working assiduously to harness our indigenous resources and potential for ensuring prosperity and progress of our people.

“In pursuance of these objectives, we draw inspiration from China’s achievements be it attaining the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society or its endeavours for meeting the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects.”

Talking about expanding ties between the two countries, he said that China was Pakistan’s largest trade and investment partner.

“We want to expand these ties by making an optimal use of the 2nd Phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement and enhancing industrial cooperation. Pakistan can serve as the manufacturing base for China and an extension of its industrial and supply chain network.”

He said Pakistan offered investment opportunities to Chinese companies in areas of industry, agriculture modernisation, infrastructure, green energy and digital economy.

“Since ancient times, the fertile river valleys of Pakistan have been the granaries of the subcontinent. Building upon the complementarities in agriculture, our two countries can fast-track bilateral cooperation to boost corporate farming, efficient water usage, development of hybrid seeds and high yield crops and establishing cold storage chains.”, he said.

“This cooperation has assumed an added importance to address common concerns related to food security.”

Climate change

PM Shehbaz also raised the issue of climate change saying that it posed an existential threat to humanity’s survival.

“The recent unprecedented floods in Pakistan inundated one-third of our territory and affected over 33 million people with huge economic losses. This climate-induced catastrophe is a wake-up call for the sceptics and a clarion call for joint action.”

He went on to say that China was a leading voice for addressing the adverse impacts of climate change, adding that Pakistan looked forward to learning from its technological advancements in this area.

CPEC

Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), PM Shehbaz said that the project had “infused renewed vitality into our socioeconomic development in a short span of a few years”.

“As a game-changer for Pakistan and subsequently for the broader region, CPEC is the central pillar of my government’s development agenda.

“Under its rubric, the successful completion of energy and transport infrastructure projects have set the stage for Pakistan’s economic revitalisation and for laying a solid foundation for cooperation in diverse sectors,” he added.

CPEC’s next phase of development will encompass key areas such as industry, energy, agriculture, rail and road network and developing Gwadar Port as a hub of trade and transhipment, investment and regional connectivity, he said.

“Our overall aim is to harness the potential of CPEC for Pakistan’s inclusive and sustainable growth, socioeconomic development and for improving livelihoods of our people,” he further said.

Safety of Chinese citizens

On a serious note, the premier talked about the safety of Chinese citizens in Pakistan, stating that it remained the government’s top priority.

“We would not let anyone to damage our close friendship and strong economic partnership. My government would spare no effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of these reprehensible acts,” he stated.

“To a cursory observer, Pakistan-China friendship may be driven by their respective national interests. To a historian, the geographical proximity and commonality of past experiences may have brought us together.

“But for us in Pakistan and in true essence, fraternal bonds between our two peoples are much deeper, transcending the general precepts of inter-state ties and uniting us in an eternal and timeless relationship,” he said.

Concluding his op-ed, he noted that the two countries were tied together by a common vision to play a role for the bright future of our people as well as for peace and stability of the broader region.

“And I am confident that our relationship, which President Xi hailed as ‘taller than mountains, deeper than oceans, and sweeter than honey’ in his address to Pakistan’s Parliament in April 2015, can help us achieve our common aspirations. Live Long Pakistan-China Friendship!”

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