CHINESE Foreign Minister Yang Jiechis remark, during a press conference at Beijing the other day, that his country has neither changed its policy on the Kashmir dispute nor would it abandon Pakistan in difficult times, is only an expression of the reality on the ground. The Chinese have gone out of their way to help Pakistan, even losing the lives of their citizens in the process. The construction of several crucial infrastructural projects, in economic as well as defence fields, gave a wholesome push to our industrial and commercial activity and lent muscle to our military machine. And Mr Yangs reference to the possibility of making additional sale of arms and aircraft to Pakistan in the context of continuing to expand practical means of cooperation is the latest manifestation of the deep understanding existing between the two countries. The Chinese support to Pakistan through thick and thin has never been in doubt, for one thing because the causes that the two countries pursue are of unquestionable legal and ethical validity. Islamabad benefited a great deal from the help it received from Beijing, which, unlike the rest of the aid-giving world, has invariably been without any strings. However, there has always been a strong feeling in patriotic political circles that Pakistan has, most unwisely, missed or at least balked at making full use of the opportunities that came its way to further cement the bilateral relations. Its successive ruling classes have invariably had, it is a great pity, misplaced fascination for the so-called friendly Western nations, which refused to give their help to Pakistan when it was most needed. Nevertheless, close bonds between Beijing and Islamabad have continued to exist, thanks more to the former than anything else because it looks at our failings with an understanding eye. Another reason for their close bonds is pure pragmatic considerations, which oblige neighbouring countries to have a harmonious and helpful existence. It is in pursuit of the Chinese vision of a peaceful region, concern for all-weather friend Pakistan and regard for justice that Mr Yang stressed the need for an early solution of the Kashmir issue. He expressed Beijings readiness to assist in tackling it. To set at rest any doubt about the existence of a strong relationship with Islamabad, Mr Yang counselled that no one should believe that the Pak-China friendship was in search for any material advantage. One would like to imagine that this reaffirmation would jolt our leadership out of their sweet dreams of gainful association with the US and other Western nations, and make them realise that, with hostile forces ganging up on us, further strengthening our relations with China was also the strategic need of the time.