The leaderships of Pakistan and China realize the need to provide a solid base to already strong Pakistan-China friendship that goes beyond bilateral trade and economic cooperation and promotes cultural relations and people-to-people contacts. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani's recent visit to China and his address at Taihu World Cultural Forum are clear pointers in this direction.
Pakistan-China friendship derives its strength from shared common interests in promoting peace, development and stability in the region and adherence to the principles of sovereign equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit, cooperation and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Despite having the world's largest population and its second largest economy, China has never treated Pakistan as its junior partner. During the last two decades, China's profile as a world power has risen phenomenally. Its relations with the United States, Japan, and European Union, and even with India, have broadened dramatically. But China has never allowed its relations with other countries to affect its friendship with Pakistan.
Pakistan was the first Muslim, and the third non-communist, country to accord diplomatic recognition to China in 1951. Since then, bilateral relations between Pakistan and China have continued to grow, encompassing defence, security, trade, economic cooperation, energy, infrastructure, water management, mining, agriculture, education, transport, communications, science and technology.
China replaced the United States as Pakistan's principal source for arms and weapons when Washington imposed military sanctions on Pakistan in 1965 and 1990. China has assisted Pakistan in developing its nuclear and conventional defence capabilities which have enhanced Pakistan's strength in South Asia's strategic balance. When the United States imposed sanctions against Pakistan in 1990 because of its nuclear weapons development program, China supplied Pakistan with military hardware including 34 short-range ballistic missiles. Recent sales of Chinese conventional weapons to Pakistan include JF-17 aircraft along with production facilities, F-22P frigates with helicopters, K-8 jet trainers, T-85 tanks, F-7 aircraft, small arms and ammunition.
According to latest reports, Pakistan is seeking to buy 36 J-10 aircraft, which would make Pakistan the first recipient of one of the most advanced weapon systems in China's arsenal. The addition of 36 J-10 aircraft would enable Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to raise two fighter squadrons and further sharpen its combativeness. The sale of the J-10 aircraft signals the depth of Pakistan-China strategic partnership. This partnership reflects close cooperation between the two countries in high-tech production and joint defence projects. The mainstay of China-Pakistan joint defence production is the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, where servicing, assembly and manufacturing of fighter and trainer aircraft is carried out.
China has also built a turnkey ballistic missile manufacturing facility near Rawalpindi and helped Pakistan develop the 750 km range solid-fueled Shaheen-I ballistic missile. Pakistan and China have also signed an agreement under which China will construct four submarines for Pakistan Navy. A significant aspect of China's military aid is that it involves the transfer of technology to Pakistan.
With Chinese help, Pakistan has built two nuclear reactors at Chashma, and during President Zardari's first visit in 2008, China pledged to help Pakistan construct two new nuclear reactors at Chashma. The two nuclear power plants will generate 640 megawatts of power and will help overcome the critical energy crisis in Pakistan. The project is a part of Government of Pakistan's Vision 2030, which includes plans for generating 8000 megawatts of power from nuclear plants.