Conceding that quite a bit of the Chinese President’s address to our Parliament was ritualistic rhetoric, the message, nevertheless, of a sincere and deep-rooted friendship and a resolve to help Pakistan break out of its current straits and predicaments was clear. It was in sharp contrast to the comparatively small amount of the US Kerry Lugar Bill of $1.5 billion a year, hamstrung by supercilious ifs and buts and overbearing conditions. It also had the hidden design of demoralizing the government by telling it, it could not be trusted and at least a part of the money was to be given to non-government entities. And oddly enough, the amount to be given over the years remained short of the total. No wonder David Sedney who heads the Pakistan desk at the Pentagon, in an interview to the New York Times, has called the package “a dramatic failure” because resources “scattered too thin” and had no practical or strategic impact.

What President Xi-Jinping said was most heartwarming and a veritable tonic for an anaemic Pakistan. In all, 51 agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed. According to the statement issued by the Planning Commission, agreements worth $28 billion would kickstart “early harvest” projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The remaining projects of $17 billion would be carried out as soon as the required processes and formalities are completed. In a statement, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal said that CPEC would link Kashgar in Western China with Gwadar Port through a mesh of communication networks comprising a world class seaport, commercial sea lines, an airport, highways, railways, fibre optic cables and oil and gas pipelines. “The corridor projects initially envisage $34bn investment in the energy sector and around $11bn in the infrastructure sector,” the minister said, adding that the two countries had finalised plans to add 10, 400MW through early harvest energy generation projects spread across the country to be completed by 2017-18.

The Pakistan government has done well by establishing a special security division comprising nine battalions with 5000 SSG commanders as a part of the 10,000 strong new force for the security of Chinese citizens in Pakistan for the Pak-China economic projects. The special division will also have personnel from police and civil armed forces. The division will be led by a major general who will report to General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

The implementation of the projects and in particular the tasks to be done by Pakistan pose an enormous challenge to central and provincial governments. It is vital that there is a clear understanding amongst these four governments and also amongst the political parties about the benefits which will accrue to the people of Pakistan. Already, voices have been raised about changes made in the route of the China-Pakistan corridor. Some clarification has come from the government. All doubts need to be put at rest. There has also been some criticism about the presence of only the Punjab Chief Minister on various occasions during the Chinese President’s visit—other CMs not having been invited. The Prime Minister should go out of the way to ensure that such faux-pas doesn’t happen again.

During the one and only meeting I have had with the Punjab Chief Minister a few years ago, I suggested to him that a part of the palatial building at 8 Club Road in GoR I, should be used for establishing an institute for Chinese studies to promote people-to-people relations. The idea did not find favour with Mian Sahib. Later, Senator Mushahid Hussain wisely set up a China Institute in Islamabad. Good to find the Chinese President appreciating Mushahid’s initiative and conferring on him a special award for his thoughtful contribution. It is indeed significant that in his address to the Parliament, Mr. Xi made a pointed reference to the need for cultural centres and media organizations to hold diverse events to promote relations between the two countries. Groups of 100 youths from both countries should visit each other to strengthen people-to-people contacts. Mr. Xi also announced that arrangements would be made to provide training to 2000 Pakistani youth in diverse fields and 1000 teaching staff trained in Chinese language. It is time that Pakistan opens centres for the Chinese language all over the country, especially in our universities. In his message to Pakistan on the eve of his visit, President Xi rightly said that China and Pakistan should intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges to set a good example for mutual learning and friendly cooperation: “We need to increase visits, language training, youth exchange and cooperation between sister cities, media and think-tanks so that Pakistan-China friendship has strong popular support and the hearts of our people are brought even closer.” Pakistan must heed this laudable advice and launch a five-year programme on these lines, availing the cooperation extended by China.

Perhaps the most mature reaction from India on President Xi’s visit to Pakistan has come from the prestigious Hindu newspaper which wrote on April 23, an editorial under the caption, “A Friend Comes Calling:”

“The development of the CPEC is not necessarily bad for India or the region. On the contrary, Pakistan’s young people who find meaningful work in the projects are unlikely to enter the jihad factories. India should also welcome the impending joint initiative by China and Pakistan to curtail terror groups along the corridor and in Afghanistan, provided the two countries are able to steer clear of an exclusionary agenda, limiting India’s legitimate interests in Kabul. In any case, it is imperative that Afghanistan is revisited in the New Delhi-Beijing strategic dialogue following President Xi’s visit. So should be the proposed export of eight Chinese submarines to Pakistan. Indian security planners may not be unduly perturbed by the sale, but any attempt by Pakistan to convert the submarines — that can be done only with Chinese help — as platforms for a nuclear second-strike capability must be recorded as a red line. President Xi’s visit signals the emergence of new geopolitical realities, calling for India adjusting itself to an emerging multipolar world. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to China next month, he thus faces a rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape in South Asia and Afghanistan. India has not done too badly in partnering China in the evolving global financial architecture, underscored by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS-led New Development Bank, and the pursuit of membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. India’s interests may be well-served if it dons the role of a cooperative balancing force by pursuing independent engagement with the U.S., Japan and ASEAN, even as it deepens ties with Beijing, based on maturity, realism and mutual benefit”.