A lot of tall claims and fine words about Pakistan-China friendship were uttered by both sides when the 17-member Chinese delegation, led by Minister for National Defence General Liang Guangile, called on the President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister at Islamabad on Monday. These words were certainly true, at least for the time now well past, and, most likely, reflected the sincere desire and expectation of the Chinese side, also at the present moment. As for Pakistan, the pity is its leadership's predilection for the Western glare. That deceptive shine continues, somehow, to blind it to the benefits the nation can draw from a deeper cooperation with Beijing, on a whole range of issues of common concern, including the strategic matters of defence, energy, trade and industry. However, it is not yet too late to redirect sails in the right direction. In fact, there never was a more appropriate time than today, with Pakistan's persistent bitter experience with the ungrateful US, to respond with a positive vigour to the overtures of cooperation that have come from the Chinese delegation. China has helped us in a multifaceted fashion in the past and continues to do so even now, but we could and must show genuine willingness to accept the hand of (closer) friendship it extends to us. We can build upon the three MOUs Mr Liang signed with Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar to enhance Pakistan's capability to fight terrorism. The MOUs envisage: the three services of the two armed forces to hold joint exercises to enable them to interact with one another and develop closer collaboration; the provision of four trainer aircraft by China; and the facility of 60 million yuans for the training of Pakistan's armed forces. They were followed by an assurance from Mr Liang that China would continue to extend military and economic assistance to Pakistan and support its stance on various issues. Beijing alone has helped us stand on our feet in several spheres, without any strings, without asking for a quid pro quo. Many of the projects it has undertaken provide Pakistan with crucial infrastructure on which to base our economic and defensive strength. Assistance, usually termed 'aid' from the US and, indeed, from the whole of the West, would gradually hold the recipient country hostage to their whims - as reflected, for example, in the case of the Coalition Support Fund. Occasions like these, when policymaking officials from countries well disposed to Pakistan are visiting, should prompt our leadership to do some soul searching and make amends for the failings of the past. We must seize the moment and expand our cooperation with China in diverse areas. Only then would it be right for the President to claim that the two countries have matured into a comprehensive strategic partnership'.