General Musharraf's five-day China visit occurred at time
crucial for a number of reasons
From SHAMIM AHMED
Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06,
The fact that China is Pakistan's tested and tried
friend needs no reiteration as it has been proved time and again in
the past. China has not only supported Pakistan in world politics, it
has lent commendable support in building and updating our defence
system and sustained economic development.
General Musharraf's five-day China visit occurred
at time crucial for a number of reasons. He arrived in Beijing when
tension with India has reached the highest point after Kargil and
despite US and China calling upon New Delhi to exercise restraint,
hawks like L.K. Advani continue to talk about hot pursuit across the
LoC. Pakistan's security problem has been further complicated by the
US anti-Al-Qaeda operation in Afghanistan which has forced Islamabad
to transfer a large part of its regular forces to the long and porous
border with Afghanistan weakening its defences on the LoC and the
international border with India.
The visit was also crucial as it came at a time
when Pakistan has allowed the US forces to use its Jacobabad, Pasni
and Dalbandin airfields. While China supports the ongoing fight
against terrorism, it is also wary of the US intentions in the region.
It has therefore expressed its preference for conducting the operation
under the UN umbrella. Keeping in view a widespread perception that
the war against terrorism might be used as an excuse by the US to seek
permanent bases in the area, China may not be pleased with Pakistan
being instrumental in helping the US realize its avowed aim.
China has, however, always shown understanding to
the limitation and compulsions of Pakistan and has never made any
demand from its weaker friend which appeared beyond its capacity. It
has shown this understanding time and again. This has been evident in
the way China has always come to Pakistan's rescue in times of
economic distress. In the last about five years, China's generous
balance of payments support to Pakistan had gone a long way in keeping
Islamabad economically afloat. True to the pattern, on the very first
day of President General Pervez Musharraf's current five-day visit to
China, Beijing once again lived up to its reputation of being generous
when it came to offering economic support to Pakistan — by extending
the maturities of past balance of payments support to a medium term.
Until this year, the balance of payments support loans used to be
renewed annually. In addition, China has offered Pakistan a grant of
100 million dollars and concessional financing for a number of
projects amounting to a total of 260 million dollars.
Seven agreements were signed on the first day of
President Musharraf's five-day state visit, which will further promote
economic development and science and technology in Pakistan. Both the
Presidents along with their respective delegations were present on the
occasion and witnessed the signing ceremony.
The first agreement regarding Chinese grant
assistance to Pakistan was signed by the Minister for Finance Shaukat
Aziz while the Chinese Minister for Foreign and Economic Cooperation
signed from the Chinese side.
The second agreement on concessional loan for
implementation of Saindak project was signed by Minister for Petroleum
and Natural Resources Usman Aminuddin while the Natural Resources
Minister of China signed on behalf of China.
The third agreement regarding joint revolving fund
for research and development in the field of science and technology
was signed by the Pakistan Ambassador in China, Riaz Khokhar, while
the Chinese side was led by the Chief of China Bank.
The other agreements regarding extension of 500 kv
Muzaffargarh and Ghatti transmission lines and Jinnah hydropower
project were signed by the Pakistan Ambassador in China while the
concerned officials of Chinese government signed on behalf of their
Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz told newsmen that the
Chinese government has extended a $ 100 million grant to Pakistan for
various projects. Then there is $ 200 million of concessional
financing. In addition there are several projects totalling $ 260
million which they are financing. These include hydel power stations,
sub-stations for Wapda and transmission lines, he added.
In addition, Aziz said, China has given Pakistan
over the years very crucial balance of payments support which is
renewed every year. Now the Chinese government has said that they will
renew it for the medium term. This is a really welcome gesture for
Pakistan, he said adding China has appreciated the economic reforms
Pakistan has undertaken and they want to support our efforts by
extending the maturities of the balance of payments support to medium
term. All the previous renewals were short term. So this is a major
change and we appreciate what China has done. This testifies to the
strong relationship between the two countries.
China has been a steadfast donor to this country
and Pakistan owes so many large projects to Chinese help and
investment Pakistan's potential for defence production bears witness
to China's selfless help, Chasnup (the Chasma nuclear power plant) is
an outstanding example of how China has helped Pakistan in the
peaceful uses of the atom for generating electricity. Another major
project already completed, and is now scheduled to start production
shortly, is the Saindak copper project under Chinese management.
Currently China has won contracts for building a deep sea port at
Gawadar and to construct a coastal highway along much of Makran coast.
It has also promised assistance for other projects.
All in all China has done much for Pakistan over
the years. There is no reason to think that economic cooperation and
trade between the two countries will not grow further in days to come.
There have been some angled press comments that with it entry into WTO
and its playing the trade game according to new rules, China will pose
a threat to Pakistani exports in their traditional markets. Doubtless
the relevant Pakistani and Chinese Ministers will go over the whole
field and are sure to come up with mutually beneficial plans and
policies that will make the trade of both expand even as their
economies grow. But the value of their understanding and cooperation
has to be seen in the wider context, thought profits and earnings need
not be ignored. China's position has been affected by the changes as
much as Pakistan's. The two obviously have to understand the evolving
new order, the irrespective places in it and seen what can they do,
and how, to protect their vital interests and concerns. They are sure
to do it as old, trustworthy friends ant allies.