Tallat Azim Change in Education, an offshoot of the Roots School System and Paki-stan China Institute, a think tank, organised an interesting conference for youth on Pakistan and China, Partners in the 21st century, in the last week. As is the norm in a place full of bright young people, the atmosphere was full of energy and vigour. The speakers panel was good and each one got undivided attention from the audience, which speaks well for their selection, given that the young are not very high on patience. Faisal Mushtaq, Executive Director for Change in Education, said that together the population of China and Pakistan constitute 21 percent of the whole world. Mushahid Hussain, Chairman Pakistan China Institute, taking it further, pointed out that the future of the world looks towards our region for all their resources. Currently, the United States depends on China for its economy and on Pakistan for its defence. None of the speakers used clichs like higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans but, very matter of factly, went over how the bond between the two countries had remained unchanged over the years. In this age of materialism, friendships between countries are also based on whats in it for me but Pakistan and China have remained steadfast in their support and sympathy for each other in all areas. It is a fact that irks our mutual enemies and thats exactly why some Chinese nationals have been targeted at their place of work in Pakistan. The CEO of a local media group was the keynote speaker. His knowledge of the Chinese language and consequent familiarity with China made him most engaging. He pondered why we, in Pakistan, had started to take the relationship between the two countries almost for granted. He lamented that despite all the goodwill that exists, Pakistani students did not have enough opportunities to learn the Chinese language. He said that if we admire the Chinese so much we should also try and emulate them and learn how they have taken their country to such a position of respect and importance. The Beijing Olympics, I think, are a case in point. In the history of the Olympic Games, they have not been held on the scale and in a manner which was witnessed at Beijing, despite the natural and man-made hiccups in the way. Professor Wang Jisi, Dean School of International Studies at Beijing University, which is their equivalent of Harvard, had come especially for the conference. He expressed extremely warm sentiments for Pakistan and said, for which he got a thunderous applause, that G22 was a thing of the past and that Pakistan and China together form the G2, which made them extremely relevant to the present and the future. On the other hand and most ironically the Obama administration, which has otherwise most cordial relations with Pakistan, has once again publicly rejected Pakistans plea for a civilian nuclear deal on the lines of a similar one that Washington and the international community reached with India. Pakistan has been persistently seeking such an agreement despite US reservations and has upped the stakes by drafting Chinas support for a fresh pitch. Pakistans envoy to China, Masood Khan, reportedly bro-ught Chinas assurance of support to a prep meeting in Islamabad. The conference on Pakistan and China, Partners in the 21st century, explored many ways of enhancing interaction between the youth of both countries. Some students and some representatives of the Chinese media had flown in too, especially for the conference. Next year will celebrate 60 years of an established relationship between the two countries and we should mark the year with befitting events and exchanges. Whereas there is also an oft quoted Hadith which says: Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China, I think we need to take practical steps for student and cultural exchanges. The huge auditorium being built in Islamabad in the Shakarparian Hills by the Chinese is a wonderful gift for the city. It will have a very large indoor seating capacity that was much needed here. It will be complete by the end of the year and will be, thus, available for the fabulous performances that the Chinese cultural troupes are famous for in the coming year when we celebrate 60 years of friendship with China. Our ultimate and best friend will remain China, long after our moment in the sun as being the supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan (now even more so with the turbulent events that have taken over Kyrgystan, which was the lesser US supply route). The more we realise this, the less will be the shock of being dumped by the US yet again, whenever that happens. Only one thing is definite, that happen it will Postscript: There is cause to rejoice because an individual friend of Pakistan, in the form of the Greek social worker Professor Athanasios Lerounis, who was kidnapped from Bamburet valley six months ago, by the Nuristan based Afghan Taliban, has been handed back to the Pakistani authorities two days ago. He visited the country every year and spent time in Chitral to oversee the humanitarian projects he was supervising and funding for the people of the valley. He collected donations to build schools, clinics, water tanks, potable water supply schemes, maternity homes and completed more than 20 proj-ects with endowments from donors in Greece. The community he worked in put all the pressure they could on the authorities to secure his release which has led to his safe home coming. But nobody had even heard of him in the rest of the country before he was kidnapped. He did not want photo ops or anything from the government. It is this sort of jazba that one yearns for in our own elected leaders too. Self-effacing, being known through their work only and achieving their goals with single-minded devotion. I certainly hope the professor will be decorated with the highest medal of honour by the government. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com