Mian Shahbaz might be forgiven for thinking that signing a Memorandum of Understanding is enough, and he has witnessed their signings aplenty. However, that is when the difficulties of the investors start, and it becomes difficult to stitch together the idealised vision of Pak-China economic cooperation. Instead of finding themselves facilitated, foreign companies bearing only an MoU as a defence against the bureaucracy, find their path littered with obstacles.

Before being over-optimistic about the prospects of Chinese help for the Pakistani energy crisis, one should seriously look at the problems faced by investors at the hands of the Pakistani bureaucracy. While there should be little doubt that Chinese participation is essential to tackling the energy crisis and other crisis especially in the induction of renewable technologies such as solar and wind power one must recognize that help for the Pakistani energy effort is subject to hurdles, such as the inextinguishable desire to pocket kickbacks and graft.

Whatever obstacles there are, these should be navigated one way or the other before the signing of the MOUs, lest the impression be created that the signings are merely photo opportunities meant to deceive the public into thinking that something is being done about the power crisis, while nothing is done.

When it comes to energy projects, including the solar energy signed of late to provide electricity to Punjab, the task does not end with just the signing of an MoU, but that is where it begins. Only when a project actually starts feeding electricity into the national grid can we rest assured that some difference is going to be witnessed. The real task is of cutting through the red-tape in order to allow a smooth sailing to disillusioned foreign investors who have signed MoUs and want something to come out of it. India has progressed so greatly simply because where its economic relations with friends or neighbours are concerned, there is no such mandarin mentality standing in the way of progress.