Relations between states are characterised by commonality of interests and their intensity invariably depends on the range of ingredients forming the basis for common interests. The time-tested, ever-growing and tensile bonds between Pakistan and China derive their depth from geographical proximity, shared geo-political interests, shared perceptions on regional security and issues of global concern and the snowballing and mutually beneficial economic and military ties spanning well over six decades. These factors have so interwoven the interests of the two countries that they are now destined to remain on the upward curve, belying the diplomatic maxim that friends of today can be enemies of tomorrow and vice versa.

This relationship is also tinged with seething emotionalism on both sides that provides nourishment to the tree of friendship, which was quite evident from the protocol given to the Chinese President Mr.Xi Jin Ping on his arrival at Islamabad Airport on Monday, when defying the security SOP President Mamoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif greeted the distinguished guest along with federal ministers and services chiefs. As soon as the plane carrying the Chinese President entered Pakistani air space it was escorted to the Islamabad Airport by four JF-17 Thunder aircrafts which have been produced at Kamra Aeronautical Complex in collaboration with China; a venture which speaks volumes about the dimensions of military bonds between the two nations.

The hallmark of the whole range of relations between Pakistan and China is that they represent people to people amity nurtured by love and respect. The history of the ties between them amply testifies to this uniqueness. The Chinese President rightly characterised the relations as ‘strategic partnership’ between China and Pakistan. Addressing the parliament he recounted the friendly acts of Pakistan towards China and the moments when the former stood by the latter in times of need. He called Pakistan the‘Iron brother’ of China and acknowledged that Pakistani economy had the capability to transform into an “Asian Tiger”. The Economic Corridor, he said, will benefit not only the region but also every citizen of Pakistan. There is an unqualified consensus on what the Chinese President said about relations between the two countries and the potential and opportunities that the Corridor initiative is going to bestow on both the people and the region.

China is poised to become the leading economic power of the world looking to expand its commercial interests at the global level. The concepts of revival of the old silk route and the building of China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) are manifestations of this reality. The CPEC, which involves building of rail and road links and pipelines connecting Kashghar with Gawadar, development of Gawadar as deep sea port and building of an international airport at Gawadar, will immensely benefit both China and Pakistan. It would give China an easy access to Middle Eastern and African markets in addition to shortening the route for oil imports with reduced costs. China with a view to expand its commercial interests is also likely to make investments in other Asian countries but none would probably match the volume of financial commitments that it is poised to make in Pakistan under the CPEC.

The massive Chinese investment of US$ 45bn in the CPEC, which also includes power producing projects, would help cash-strapped Pakistan to wriggle out of the debilitating energy crisis besides accruing of a host of other economic benefits in the shape of development of the areas along the rail and road network and creation of nearly one million jobs through these projects. Out of the total, CPEC portfolio of US$ 34 would be invested in early harvest power projects with a cumulative power generating capacity of 10,400 MW that may be added to the system by 2017-18. This addition to the power producing capacity would be the biggest ever increase in power production in the history of the country, which would not only contribute to surmounting the current energy crisis but also fulfill its future needs to keep the industrial wheel going. Another and the most significant aspect of this undertaking is that Pakistan would become a regional economic hub and a catalyst to infinite economic and political gains for the country and the region.

The signing of 51 agreements and MOUs between the two countries and the joint inauguration and ground breaking ceremony of some energy producing units envisaged under the CPEC, by the Chinese President and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, heralded the formal launching of the cluster of projects relating to the Corridor. With this, the strategic partnership with China has attained permanence. Addressing the parliament, the Chinese President praised efforts of the Pakistan government in fighting terrorism and the successes achieved through operation Zarb-e-Azab, expressing the hope that it would lead to peace and stability in the country. He vowed to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan in tackling terrorism, pledged to continue cooperation with her in the field of Civil Nuclear Technology and to support Pakistan’s bid for permanent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for which it has been striving for the last many years. President Xi Jinping also appreciated Pakistan’s constructive role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. The two countries also decided to enhance their bilateral trade to US$ 20bn. The talks between the two leaders focused on strengthening strategic, political, economic and cultural spheres and both the countries agreed to make coordinated efforts for peace and security in the region. In fact, peace and security in the region needs unruffled attention and cooperation of the two countries. The success of the Chinese vision of revival of the old silk route and CPEC undoubtedly depends on peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan and this is indeed the area where greater focus is required. Peace in Afghanistan would facilitate and open up new avenues of trade and economic cooperation with the Central Asian states and the realisation of the trans-regional projects like TAPI gas pipeline and CASA-1000.

The Chinese objective of regional connectivity, is also shared by Pakistan. This unanimity of views and objectives provides the firm basis for the everlasting and mutually beneficial engagement between the two countries in the shape of CPEC. The Pakistani leadership by associating itself with the Chinese objective for the revival of the old silk route and the building of CPEC has shown remarkable pragmatism and vision that hopefully would prove to be a revolutionary step towards changing the economic profile of the country and strengthening regional security to the benefit of all the stakeholders. It is indeed a win-win situation for both the friendly countries.