Farooq Hameed Khan When four PAF JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, that were co-produced with Chinese assistance, escorted Prime Minister Wen Jiabaos Jumbo aircraft in Pakistans airspace, it reflected the true spirit of a time-tested and all-weather strategic partnership between the two countries. The Chinese defence/aerospace technology has made tremendous strides since the sixties to the extent that not only is China today producing critical weapon/missile systems, naval warships/submarines and advanced fighter aircraft, but also commercial airliners and spaceships. The Pakistan armed forces have, thus, benefited from the open-hearted transfer of Chinese technology related to both conventional and non-conventional weapon systems. At a time when the West slapped arms embargo and sanctions on Pakistan in the post-1965 and 1971 war era, it were the Chinese who not only supplied the MIG fighter aircrafts and T-59 tanks, but also helped Pakistan establish the defence production industrial base at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra, the Heavy Industries (HIT) and Heavy Mechanical and Electrical Complexes at Taxila. Many dreams of the seventies have been translated into reality through the joint design/development and co-production model between China and Pakistan. The JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft, Karakorum-8 (K-8) Jet, ZDK-03 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) in China, the Al-Khalid main battle tank (HIT) and underproduction F-22P naval frigate in Karachi Shipyard are shining examples in this regard. That the Chinese want a strong and stable Pakistan to ensure peace in the region was evident from Jiabaos special interaction with the Chiefs of the Armed Forces. Such a meeting of Service Chiefs with a visiting Head of State is considered rare and unprecedented. The PM is reported to have assured continued defence cooperation and support for Pakistans armed forces. In the backdrop of persistent US pressure on Pakistan army, and American plans for military action against the Haqqani and Al-Qaeda networks in North Waziristan, this meeting assumed added importance. Perhaps, a significant outcome of this visit was the Chinese Premiers emphasis on enhanced support for the energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan - the national trade and energy corridor from Gwadar via the Karakorum to Xingkiang, Chinas western autonomous region. Premier Jiabao also announced to increase investment to develop Gwadar Port, while its operation may be handed over to the Chinese firm in near future. Furthermore, the planned up-gradation of Karakorum Highway and establishment of rail link from Havelian (near Abbottabad) onwards through the Khunjerab Pass in Karakorum to Xingkiang province will provide the shortest and fastest energy route from the oil-rich Gulf to meet Chinas growing energy needs. Despite USAs opposition and pressure from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, China has boldly embarked on the provision of the civil nuclear energy to help Pakistan meet its growing energy demands. With Chashma I nuclear reactor (300MW) already in operation, and Chashma II reactor (300MW) likely to be operational in near future, agreements on Chashma III and IV reactors (625MW combined) have already been concluded. Hopefully, the next decade may well see a Chinese supplied 1,000MW nuclear reactor set up in Pakistan, as well as co-production of nuclear reactors with Chinese technological assistance. But amongst this long list of agreements and memorandum of understanding (MOUs), the one on 'Anti-Corruption Cooperation was conspicuously absent. In a meeting in Beijing, in September 2008, between former Chairman NAB and then Chinese Minister of Justice, who also headed their newly established National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP), it was decided to formalise an agreement to enable NBCP to benefit from NABs anti-corruption expertise. Perhaps, the Chinese had second thoughts after having seen NABs wilful destruction and the record corruption levels of the incumbent government. Whereas the Pak-US relations could be best described as rollercoaster ride, arm-twisting and sanctions based on mistrust, the Pak-China strategic partnership model is smooth based on mutual trust, sincerity and respect for each others sovereignty. While the US aid to Pakistan is invariably conditional, the Chinese assistance is open-hearted without strings or preconditions. If the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which has controversial clauses related to our armed forces and nuclear programme and promises only $7.5 billion in next five years, PM Jiabaos visit has opened opportunities worth around $35 billion in a five-year economic development programme. Both the US and India would surely be taken aback with the success and far-reaching implications of the Chinese PMs visit to Pakistan. It remains to be seen if Obama will try to match Jiabaos rich economic package in his forthcoming visit to Pakistan next year. In the face of any new Indo-US manoeuvrings in South Asia, a strong Sino-Pak strategic partnership, however, remains the best bet for peace in the region. More so, Premier Jiabaos remarks during his address to Parliaments joint session sent a veiled, but meaningful message to the US and the West not to unduly pressurise Pakistan in these trying times. In this context, his remarks that it was better to have a good neighbour than a distant relative, that terrorism should not be linked with religion, and that West should acknowledge Pakistans sacrifices in the war against terrorism were indeed timely and laudable. His speech at different forums during the visit appeared to boost the sagging morale of the Pakistani nation, which stands demoralised in the face of economic despair. His visit is a vote of confidence and trust in the abilities of the Pakistani nation. His remark that Beijing would never give up on our crisis hit country is an evidence of the Chinese commitment to stand by Pakistan in these difficult times. From a bilateral relationship that commenced 60 years ago, Pakistan and China have moved towards regional and international cooperation that respects the strategic interests of the two countries. The many new dimensions added to the Sino-Pak relations during PM Jiabaos visit reflect an ever ascending strategic partnership with sky being the limit. In Jiabao, Pakistanis saw a clean and honest leadership of class; a selfless and visionary leadership that has transformed China into an emerging superpower through the policy of peaceful development. At a time when Pakistan faces economic emergency, our leadership must rise to seize the opportunity provided by the Chinese leadership. The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com