The relations between China and Pakistan are far beyond and above the realm of normal diplomatic relations and no terminology in the diplomatic parlance could befittingly describe this fusion of minds and hearts between the two people. Even the epithet of ‘iron-brothers’ that is often mentioned in reiterating the strength of the ties and bonhomie between the two countries, to my mind is not sufficient to put it into proper perspective. China is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan and this has assumed eternity, the element which makes all the difference.

Perhaps the description given to friendship by Paulo Coelho de Souza, Brazilian lyricist and an eminent literary figure and winner of several international awards truly reflects the bonds between the two countries. Describing friendship he said” Friendship is not about whom you know the longest. It is about who came and never left”

China has not only contributed immensely to economic progress of Pakistan but has also helped her in strengthening its defence capabilities in view of the threats to its security in the rapidly changing security environment in the region. With every passing day the relationship has gone on gathering greater momentum and strength.

The Chinese President Xi Jing Ping in a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khanqan Abbassi on the sidelines of Baoao Conference in Beijing while appreciating progress in strategic partnership between Pakistan and Chine since his visit to Islamabad in 2015 remarked that China wanted to take relations with Pakistan to new heights which should serve as a great example of bilateral cooperation under Belt and Road initiative. That remark was in the context of CPEC. What is however noteworthy is that he reiterated China’s firm support to Pakistan in her efforts to safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate rights and interests simultaneously opposing interference from any country in Pakistan’s internal affairs. President Xi also expressed firm support for Pakistan’s fight against terrorism. He was also right on money to say that as the regional and international scenario was undergoing massive changes, the cordial and friendly relations between Pakistan and China carried much importance.

Cooperation between China and Pakistan to cope with the emerging challenges particularly the threats to regional security and the security challenges confronted by Pakistan is absolutely imperative. China has been and is making sterling contribution in reinforcing and enhancing defence capabilities of Pakistan, enabling her to maintain credible deterrent to thwart dangers to its security.

Reportedly China as recent as March this year has provided tracking system for Pakistan’s missile programme. This tracking system could allow Pakistan to speed up development of missiles that could target multiple cities or military sites. This comes in the wake of testing of the most advanced nuclear-ready intercontinental ballistic missile by India with a range long enough to hit any target in the region.

It is pertinent to point out that in early March 2017 Chinese-built Low to Medium altitude Air Defence System was inducted into the air defence system of the Pakistan Army that would considerably enhance its response capability to the current and emerging threats as the Chinese Mobile Air Defence system is capable of tracking and destroying variety of aerial targets at longer ranges flying at low and medium altitudes.

Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa visited China last year and had very productive meetings with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi who expressed complete understanding of the challenges being faced by Pakistan, its geo-political relevance and contributions towards regional peace and stability and assured full spectrum support for Pakistan in grappling with those challenges. General Bajwa also called on General Fang Fengui, Chief of the Joint Staff Department under the Central Military Commission, Chinese Executive Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission General Fang Changlong and commander of the Peoples Liberation Army, General Li Zhuocheng with whom he discussed issues pertaining to defence cooperation, regional security and economy.

Global Times a tabloid associated with People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of Communist party of China reported that China planned to scale up its defence cooperation with Pakistan, including ballistic and cruise missiles besides joint mass production of multi-role combat aircraft, though the spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry evaded a direct answer to the media question on the subject and only thought it suffice to say ‘Beijing stands for strategic balance in South Asia’

Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in collaboration with the Chinese Aviation Industry conceived the co-development and co-production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft in 1999 which for Pakistan was a big stride towards attaining self-sufficiency in the field of aircraft production, dictated by the turn of the events and the gravity of threats to its territorial integrity.

JF-17 aircraft is based on modern concepts of aerodynamics and the hybrid fly-by-wire control system which makes it highly agile in all regimes of the operational fighting. It is an all-weather, multi-role, light control combat aircraft with a potential to form the back bone of any Air Force. It is equipped with fourth generation avionic systems that keep it beyond the visual range, short range missiles and air-to-surface missiles. The JF-17s being produced under Block-II are an upgraded version of the aircraft produced under Block-I with improved versions of avionics sub-systems, air-to-air refueling capability, additional weapons carriage facility, optimized maintenance facilitation and some additional operational capabilities. Considering the astronomical prices of the modern combat aircraft, JF-17 offers a highly cost effective solution with cutting edge capabilities. A number of countries have evinced their interest in purchasing JF-17 aircraft and in view of this development PAC and CATIC have also signed an agreement for joint sale and marketing of the aircraft. It is indeed an auspicious development which is likely to accrue substantial economic benefits besides further cementing defense ties between Pakistan and China. The induction of JF-17 in the PAF has made our air defense impregnable and enhanced its operational readiness manifold, making our skis safer than before.

China helped Pakistan during 1965 war with India and has played a significant role in its economic progress. The construction of KKH Highway, Heavy mechanical Complex at Taxila and Chashman Nuclear plants (III and IV) are the monuments of the ever-spiking bilateral ties. In the backdrop of US-India deal for transfer of civilian nuclear technology which Pakistan regarded as discriminatory act against her, China exhibited the strength of relations between the two countries by agreeing to help Pakistan in this area despite reservations of NSG and USA. The CPEC with its transformational impact represents yet another monumental economic initiative which would not only lift economic profile of Pakistan and the region but would also contribute to meeting the security challenges, as security was inextricably linked to economic progress.

 

n          The writer is a freelance columnist.