Former Pakistan PM: China-Pakistan relations bring more benefits to people on both sides
China and Pakistan established diplomatic relations in 1951. Through unrelenting efforts of people and leaders from both countries, the connection and friendship has been growing ever since, and an all-weather strategic partnership has also been established. “China-Pakistan relationship is a good example of State-to-State relationships,” President Xi Jinping said in 2014.
Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, paid an official visit to China in November 2018. Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi. As one of the symbolic Belt and Road projects, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has improved the investment and business environment in Pakistan, creating a new space for its economic development.
Gwadar Port, which is now considered as the pearl of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, was once a small fishing village along the Arabian Sea. Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, told China Focus that construction of harbor and ports has brought more employment opportunities to the district, and boosted its economic development. Today, Gwadar Port has a new look. Responding to the “debt trap” argument concocted by western media to defame the Belt and Road initiative, Aziz emphasized that trade exchanges and interconnections are not coercible. The outcome of establishing better trade, commercial and diplomatic relations through joint efforts is sure to be mutually beneficial.
China Focus: Why is connectivity important?
Aziz: I believe that whenever you have connectivity, no matter which countries are involved, you open up minds, you open up trade routes, you open up connections, and you open up awareness of each other. That’s what the world is all about.
So, I would say that if two countries can agree to build infrastructure and build better trade and commercial and diplomatic relations, you cannot lose that battle. You will always win if you know what you’re doing. This is what’s happening between China and Pakistan.
China Focus: How to understand the current China-Pakistan relationship?
Aziz: China-Pakistan relations go back several decades. Since our independence, we’ve had good relations and all along, China has been a steadfast friend of Pakistan. So, there is much goodwill on the streets of Pakistan for China, and China has always stood by us at many challenging times.
We agree on most strategic issues, geopolitical issues… we see the world the same way. So, we are China’s natural partner.
The One Belt One Road initiative will have links that will contribute to progress of the economy and of people on both sides. It will create jobs, it will create availability of goods at better prices or of better quality, and will give better connectivity.
I was part of the government during the first project we did. So, I was intimately involved in everything. Former Premier Zhu Rongji visited Pakistan. I was finance minister then, so I accompanied him on the trip. We basically agreed to pursue a port in Gwadar and set up a sort of installation there. Gwadar is a town on the coast on the Arabian Sea, a Pakistani town. Now if you go there, you won’t recognize it—the roads and the housing complexes that are coming up.
Gwadar is in Baluchistan, a very important province of Pakistan. However, the economic growth there, and investment opportunities were very limited. Now, you will see this expanding. Jobs will be created for the Baluchi people. Markets will open for them. Flights are going there now. If the port hadn’t opened, and this whole infrastructure, roads, electricity, etc., had not happened, and without all these, it would still be a little fishing village. It would still exist, but it wouldn’t be at such an exciting level unless we did something different.
China-Pakistan relationship is a very close relationship at all levels in all directions. It’s multifaceted, especially in terms of its purpose and the geographic coverage it has. If you look at the trade that has gone up between Pakistan and China, our relations in every field are increasing and improving. And we are very proud of this relationship.
China Focus: How can the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor be further developed?
Aziz: I clearly feel that all further development will be based on the feasibility of what is viable. Essentially, what we can do is to use the corridor, as you called it, to give China access and a route to get what is required from the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. There’s a big market there. You know, you have South Asia, you have the Middle East, the Gulf—they can come to Gwadar, leave their goods, and then the train and road links can do the rest.
So, I think as a transit and communication point, Gwadar will play a major role. Once the road is built, there may be other channels that will open to get goods from one point to the other. So my own view is that let’s get going. Let’s start phase one.