China-Pakistan Strategic Axis: Ensuring Regional Perpetual Peace

Sino-Pak bonhomie takes another stride as State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People’s Republic of China and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan held the third session of the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, China.

During the bilateral summit, both sides discussed further deepening of bilateral relations, focus on cooperation in the high quality development under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), defence and security cooperation, Covid-19 vaccines, counter-terrorism and regional and international issues of mutual interest, peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and international and regional issues of mutual interest, and reached consensus to collectively take measures to safeguard their common interests and promote peace, prosperity, and development in the region. The summit played an important role in further strengthening Pakistan-China “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” and will expand strategic communication and coordination with China on a range of issues. The time-tested Pakistan-China relationship is based on unparalleled mutual trust, understanding and commonality of interests. Both sides are fully committed to building closer China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future.

It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan-China friendship has reached the momentous milestone of the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations, being enthusiastically marked in the two countries with holding of more than hundred celebratory events throughout this year, demonstrating warmth and deep sentiments of their unshakable fraternal bonds. In further strengthening their All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and together charting course for the Pakistan-China community of shared Future in the new era, both sides are committed to firmly implementing the consensus reached between their leaders, enhance mutual strategic trust, strengthen all-round cooperation, maintain momentum of high-level exchanges, further advance Belt and Road partnership, promote bilateral relationship to a higher level, and delivering greater benefits to both countries and the two peoples.

Extending felicitations to the Chinese side on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the Pakistani side recognized CPC’s immense contributions for the Chinese people, for China’s stellar rise at the world stage, and its unrivalled achievement of lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The Pakistan side wished the Chinese government and people greater success in achieving the goal of socialist modernization in the year 2035 and building a modern, prosperous, beautiful, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious socialist country in the year 2049, under the inspiring and visionary leadership of the CPC, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core.

Over the pandemic crisis, Pakistan and China agree to further enhance their vaccine cooperation.  Both sides reviewed with satisfaction their close cooperation in successfully controlling the spread of COVID-19, cooperation in protective and medical equipment, vaccine development and ensuring early post-pandemic economic recovery. The Pakistan side thanked China for its steadfast support to the vaccination drive in the country, and setting up of vaccine finish facility at the National Institute of Health in Islamabad. Likewise, Chinese side expressed its resolve to continue assisting Pakistan in strengthening its national health systems and dealing with adverse socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

On the matter of myths vis-à-vis Covid-19 origination Pak-China believe that the study of origins of the SARS-CoV-2 is a matter of science, and should not be politicized. The joint report of the WHO-convened global study of origins of the SARS-CoV-2, published this March, has drawn an authoritative and scientific conclusion of related issues. This joint report should be recognized, respected and preserved, and should be treated as the basis of the WHO next stage of the origin tracing study as well. We hope that the WHO can, together with international community, defend the scientific and serious study of origins of the SARS-CoV-2 and oppose the actions to politicize the issue, and safeguard the favorable atmosphere for global cooperation against the Covid-19 pandemic.

While in a separate statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Qureshi said the government has devised an elaborate vaccination plan to combat the pandemic across the country. “To reinforce Pakistan’s capacity to effectively and expeditiously fight the pandemic, Foreign Minister Qureshi discussed with his Chinese counterpart the supply of COVID-19 vaccine from China to Pakistan during March-April 2021,” the ministry said .Wang Yi reassured Qureshi that China will continue to firmly support Pakistan in its fight against the pandemic and accord the highest priority to the requirements of its time-tested friend. Pakistan also thanked China for gifting 1.5 million doses of vaccine, saying it had played a critical role in saving valuable human lives.  Notably, Pakistan had already received one million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine as a gift from Beijing. Qureshi also expressed gratitude to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for his thoughtful message wishing Prime Minister Imran Khan a speedy recovery from COVID-19. Wang Yi also wished Khan a speedy recovery.  As matter of fact, vaccine diplomacy has helped increase China’s influence and enabled it to capitalise on new opportunities. China has rolled vaccines out to participants of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and enhanced preferential access to jabs alongside investments in infrastructure and connectivity projects. According to an April Think Global Health report, of the 56 countries to which China pledged doses, all but one was participants in its BRI.

During the summit Pakistani side offered condolences on the loss of precious lives caused by torrential rains and flooding in Henan province, it also expressed hope that with strenuous efforts of the Chinese government, normalcy would be restored soon and affected people would return to their homes.

Over the tragedy of Dassu, both sides vehemently condemned the terrorist attack that caused loss of precious lives and injuries to the Pakistani and Chinese workers. The Pakistan side conveyed its profound condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families, emphasized that the sacrifices of Chinese nationals would not be in vain, and that China-Pakistan partnership would emerge stronger through this test. The Pakistan side promised to ensure medical treatment, care and comfort of the injured. Both sides expressed their firm resolve to expose the culprits and their reprehensible designs through the ongoing joint investigation, give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, ensure comprehensive safety and security of the Chinese projects, nationals and institutions, and prevent recurrence of such incidents. It is pertinent to mention that China appreciates Pakistan for rescuing the injured in the first place, strengthening security protection for the project personnel in Pakistan, supporting the work of China’s interdepartmental joint working group in Pakistan, and assisting China to properly deal with the aftermath.

China hopes Pakistan to resort all strengths and means to find out the truth as soon as possible. China is willing to provide all necessary assistance and cooperation. The perpetrators must be thoroughly investigated and punished without leniency no matter for what intentions, at any place, and protected by what forces. We should further improve security protection for Chinese nationals, institutions and projects in Pakistan, and build a strengthened and upgraded security cooperation mechanism. In account to discuss the modalities of Dassu project, The Wapda chairman also had a meeting with the vice president and chief executive officer of China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) and discussed with them matters pertaining to ensuring a safe and more secure environment in the project area. It is pertinent to mention that in the wake of the Dasu incident, the civil administration, Wapda and CGGC had decided with mutual consultation to suspend construction work on the project for a few days so that the matter could be reorganised and construction resumed in a more secure atmosphere.

Pakistan and China developed consensus on continuing their unyielding support on issues concerning each other’s core national interests. The Chinese side reiterated its firm support to Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, independently choosing a development path based on its national conditions, striving for a better external security environment and playing a more constructive role on international and regional affairs. The Pakistan side reiterated its commitment to the “One China Policy” and firm support to China on core issues of its national interest, such as Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and South China Sea.

As CPEC remains the core of fostering strong ties of both states in foreseeable future. Both sides underscored that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has entered the new phase of high-quality development, greatly contributing to the socio-economic development in Pakistan. The two sides will continue to firmly advance the construction of CPEC, ensure timely completion of under-construction projects, focus on economic and social development, job creation and improvement of people’s livelihood, and further strengthen cooperation in Industrial Park, infrastructure development, science and technology, medical and health, agriculture, human resources training, with the aim to continuously unleash the great potential of CPEC to make it a hub of regional connectivity. Both sides agreed on the need to build Health, Industry, Trade, Digital and Green Corridors. Both sides reviewed with satisfaction the remarkable achievements of CPEC. The two sides look forward to convening the 10th JCC meeting to jointly promote the high-quality development of the CPEC and move forward the high-quality construction of BRI.

Adding further, growing strategic cooperation between Pakistan and China backed Pakistan’s efforts in the UN Security Council regarding various issues. He also highlighted the common challenge of hybrid warfare that both Pakistan and China face from their adversaries, which can be overcome by dispelling the myths surrounding CPEC.  There is no doubt that China emerged as a crucial pivot in Pakistan’s general foreign policy and emphasising the tremendous potential of the CPEC in propelling infrastructural and human development in Pakistan. Regardless of the challenges, they are surmountable given Pakistan’s strategic space in the region by virtue of CPEC, and the growing relationship with its neighbouring countries.

In the domain of multilateral regional cooperation, both sides appraised their cooperation on regional and international issues at multilateral forums such as the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ASEAN Regional Forum, and agreed to deepen coordination and cooperation to safeguard mutual interests and uphold principles of fairness and justice. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and support for multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation.

“Pakistan and China underscored a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in the common interest of all countries. Both sides agreed on the need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The Pakistan side briefed the Chinese side on the deteriorating situation in Jammu & Kashmir, including its concerns, position and current urgent issues. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left over from history between India and Pakistan, which is an objective fact, and that the dispute should be resolved peacefully and properly through the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.”

On the matter of Afghanistan conflict, Pakistan and China agreed that Afghanistan is vital for socio-economic development, connectivity and prosperity in the region, both sides called on all Afghan stakeholders for comprehensive ceasefire, and work together in earnest to achieve broad-based and comprehensive, inclusive, negotiated political settlement. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate and support “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process for the early realization of a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan, which would firmly combat terrorism and live in harmony with its neighbours. Both sides reaffirmed their support for the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, their readiness to expand economic and trade ties, and support Afghanistan in enhancing its capacity for independent development.

Wang Yi said that the Afghan situation has come to a crucial juncture. Without eliminating terrorism or bringing peace to Afghanistan, the US suddenly withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, which has resulted in a new security black hole. Obviously, this act is irresponsible. However, crises and challenges coexist with opportunities. After the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan, the Afghan people will have the chance to hold the destiny of their own country and nation in their own hands.

There is no doubt that, China and Pakistan are directly impacted by the Afghan situation. It is necessary for the two countries to strengthen cooperation and respond to changes. After in-depth communication, both sides decided to launch joint actions from the following five aspects.

First, Pakistan and China to make efforts to pursue peace, give top priority to avoiding the spread of war, and prevent Afghanistan from spiraling into a full-scale civil war.

Second, both sides will promote peace through talks, advance effective intra-Afghan talks, and take substantive steps towards political reconciliation and building a broad-based and inclusive political framework.

Third, Pak-China to collectively make efforts in order to combat terrorism and push all major forces in Afghanistan to draw a clear line against terrorism, firmly combat the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and other terrorist forces, and resolutely stop Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed of terrorism.

Fourth, we will promote coordination and cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, explore the building of Afghanistan-related cooperation platforms, and help Afghanistan achieve peaceful reconstruction and live in amity with all its neighbors.

Fifth, Beijing and Islamabad will pool the strengths of the international community, urges the United States to earnestly fulfill its responsibilities for the peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan, promote the coordination of all Afghanistan-related regional and multilateral mechanisms, and work together for lasting peace and stability of Afghanistan.

To conclude, both China and Pakistan reaffirmed their firm resolve to further strengthen their time-tested and All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership with fresh dynamism and vitality.  The strategic dialogue between the two states not only assisted to discuss the outstanding bilateral issues but it also helped to avert the regional crisis mitigation. Such efforts will ensure perpetual peace in the region and it will also create opportunities for regional economic growth and prosperity.

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About Mushahid Hussain Naqvi 22 Articles
The author is the Digital Editor at The Asian Telegraph and sub-Editor at Melange International Magazine and Research Associate at COPAIR with academic expertise in International Relations.