PAK-CHINA: A TIME TESTED, ALL WEATHER FRIENDSHIP
SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Nov 24 - 30, 2008
Pakistan and China enjoy an all weather friendship. It is often described as deep as Arabian and as high as Himalayas. It is trust worthy and time tested too. China is one of the few countries who had always extended a helping hand to Pakistan in its difficult times.
Their multidimensional cooperation is built on the basis of mutual understanding, trust and mutual support. Geo politically and socio economically China has proved its significance and loyalty with Pakistan. All this has been once again reaffirmed in our ongoing difficult times.
Sticking to tradition, President Asif Ali Zardari chose China for his first full-fledged visit overseas as head of the state. But the trip was more significant than a customary goodwill visit to a friendly country. Pakistan is urgently seeking assistance to help it tide over a crippling financial crises.
Pakistan was seeking china's help and support to guide it to safe shores. As in the past Chinese leaders received the Pakistani delegation warmly and offered help and financial assistance in different forms mostly in the form of investment in different projects of urgent national importance.
The post-China-visit joint press conference held by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin at Islamabad after recounting the main outcomes of Pakistan delegations' interaction with their Chinese counterparts turned its focus on the economic crisis facing the country. Mr. Qureshi maintained that the purpose of President Zardari's visit had been fully achieved and gave some details of the agreements, reached at Beijing, that have bearing on economic development of the country.
According to the joint statement issued at Beijing on the conclusion of President Zardari visit, Pakistan and China agreed to further strengthen the level of economic co-operation in all possible and diverse sectors. The two countries also agreed to make continuous efforts to strengthen good neighborly relations and friendship, develop mutually beneficial co-operation and deepen strategic partnership of co-operation which serves the fundamental interests of the two country's and contributes to peace and development in the region.
The two sides agreed that economic co-operation is an important part of strategic partnership and both sides enjoy great economic relation and should fully tap the potential, and should comprehensively deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in the economic field. Furthermore, both countries agreed to fast track the implementation of the five-year development programme on economic cooperation, to make full use of the free trade agreement in goods and investment and also to revitalize the Pakistan-China joint investment company.
The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation to further develop and boost Pakistan's mineral and energy sector as well as broaden financial and the banking sector cooperation. China and Pakistan agreed to further improve connectivity by developing new communication links including fiber optic links. The countries also agreed to explore concept of integrated border management, overland trade and development of trans-border economic zones.
Both sides agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership in all sectors, develop multidimensional bilateral relations, deepen close economic co-operation, and foster people to people interaction in the days to come. Pakistan and China signed eleven agreements, MoUs and protocols to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in infrastructure, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, industry, minerals, trade, disaster relief and space technology fields.
Framework agreement to jointly establish a $300million National Electronics Complex in Pakistan (NECOP). Agreement on economic and technical cooperation. Amending protocol to free trade agreement. Framework agreement on cooperation in the field of minerals. Environmental protection. Cooperation in the field of radio and television. Paksat-IR satellite procurement contract. Properties exchange between the ministry of foreign affairs of PRC and the ministry of foreign affairs of Pakistan. Cooperation agreement between Beijing museum of natural history and the museum of natural history of Pakistan. MoU on cooperation between the ministry of land resources of PRC and the ministry of petroleum and natural resources of Pakistan. MoU on scientific collaboration in agricultural research and technical cooperation. MoU on cooperation between Cricket Association of the PRC and the Pakistan Cricket Board. MoU on project of X-Ray con-tainer/Vehicle inspection system.
Heads and chief executives of major financial, industrial and investment institutions of China called on President Zardari at the State Guest House and they showed keen interest for further investment in diverse fields of Pakistan.
Tianjin Cement will provide machinery and equipment to cater to the growing needs of cement in Pakistan. Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Governor China Development Bank (CDB) also assured its full assistance and support to the public and private sector for the socio-economic development of Pakistan, particularly the development of infrastructure. EXIM Bank already has an investment of over $2 billion in Pakistan and was willing to work to lengthen trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
Chinese companies and enterprises are welcome to invest and go in for business projects or activities in Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari offered special preferential treatment to the Chinese investors in Pakistan, urging them to invest in Pakistan and take advantage of the country's geo-strategic location. He stressed that Pakistan provides ample opportunities of investment in diverse fields including trade, industry, financial services, banking, energy, construction, real estate, tourism, etc. Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured Chinese investors of the enabling environment in Pakistan for broadening economic cooperation and for the repatriation of their profits.
He acknowledged that the Chines IT, which is a service provider, has greatly contributed to introduction and promotion of modern telecommunication in Pakistan. The Huawei Company has invested $500 million in Pakistan and annually contributed $23 million to the national exchequer in taxes. It has also provided job opportunities to 20,000 people. The company also contributed one billion rupees for University of Engineering and Technology Lahore in terms of provision of equipments.
The minister assured liberal visa regime for Chinese investors and proper security protection in the country. President Asif Zardari has agreed to chair a special task force for fast track implementation of Chinese projects in the country. The projects completed with Chinese assistance include the Karakoram Highway, Chashma nuclear power station, machine tool factory, and many others.
The projects now underway with Chinese assistance include the Chashma-II nuclear power, the second phase of the Gwadar port, the Saindak copper mines development, the Gomal Zam dam and several Oil and gas exploration schemes. On the whole, China is involved in more than 250 on-going projects in Pakistan. In defence field, they have jointly developed the JF-17-, a fighter aircraft MiGs, tanks, artillery, frigates and other Chinese' arms.
Economic interaction diversified business activities at present; over 60 Chinese companies have already permanent offices in Pakistan. Pakistan and China have signed free trade agreement first phase of which was completed in July 2008 and an investment protocol will make the FTA more comprehensive. Protocol for the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) in Pakistan will facilitate goods for duty free export to China.
It is estimated that the first phase of SEZs is expected to attract $2 billion to $5 billion from Chinese investors setting up export-oriented industries. The recently established Pak-China Joint Investment Company (PCJIC), with paid up capital of $200 million will serve as a bridge between Pakistani and Chinese entrepreneurs and facilitate investors to set up joint ventures in various fields. More than two dozen Chinese companies have shown their commitments to invest in the first SEZ, being built at Kala Shah Kako near Lahore.
One venture, between the Ruba Group of Pakistan and the Hater Group of China, has brought in an initial investment of $85 million. Light industry, automotive parts, electric appliances, parts of bicycle, CNG machine tools are supposed to be one of the few potential sectors for mutual cooperation between the two countries. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif is currently visiting China to explore possibilities of some joint ventures with Chinese investors especially in the field of agriculture and live stock. According to initial reports he has received a good response.