Watershed moment in Sino-Pakistan relations – Pakistani President Arif Alvi on his first official visit to China

Yasir Habib Khan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, March 25, 2020
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Chinese President Xi Jinping holds talks with Pakistani President Arif Alvi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

In the epic fight against the COVID-19 terror, China has presented the world with new standards of resilience. Recently, a momentous meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani President Arif Alvi highlighted the "Golden Rules of Friendship," setting an example for other countries, both regionally and beyond.

These Golden Rules of Friendship are based on mutual trust and respect, equal-footed cooperation, cognizance on international issues, and very deep understanding on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a signature project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The official visit came at a time when both countries needed each other's support on national and international issues. Pakistani President Arif Alvi, who was on his first ever visit to China since the PTI government came to power in 2018, met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the crucial occasion when China registered an extraordinary victory against COVID-19 in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

China has seemed to be in the crosshair facing staggering amounts of discrimination. The U.S., on multiple occasions, termed COVID-19 as the "Wuhan Virus" or "China Virus" despite the WHO's warning. However, the fact is that, with the Chinese spirit, strong will of the leadership, solid national resolve, and well-planned health-oriented SOPs, the country has ended the reign of the epidemic terror in a short span of time. Now Wuhan, once the worst hit area, is seeing few new cases. Pakistani President Arif Alvi's presence on the momentous occasion of victory cheered up the Chinese leadership as well as people. Pakistan was among the first countries in the world to congratulate its friend on this monumental achievement.

The connotation of the bilateral friendship can be encapsulated through both leaders' genial handshakes against the backdrop of a number of generous gestures mutually exhibited by both countries during the crisis. After COVID 19 broke out in Wuhan of Hubei Province, many countries' response was insensitive. They, turning deaf ears to Chinese government and even WHO's humble request, preferred to evacuate their people. Extreme pressure also came on the Pakistani students living there. Because the Pakistani leadership believed in China, its vision, and health advisory, it did not follow suit and instead entrusted China with the safety of its students by deciding to keep them in Wuhan and other cities of China. The vote of confidence finally paid off.

When China had been struggling to make it through, Pakistan lent its help by dispatching medical supplies to China. The Pakistani government allocated 300,000 medical masks, 800 hazmat suits, and 6,800 pairs of gloves from the stocks of public hospitals around the nation and transported the aid to China. Hunza in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan donated 7,000 surgical masks to China. Zhang Heqing, cultural counselor of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, as well as director of the China Cultural Center in Pakistan, accepted the donation and met the 12-person delegation headed by leaders of the Development Committee of the Overseas Chinese Association in Pakistan.

Zhang expressed his gratitude for the donation made by people in Hunza on behalf of Yao Jing, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan. Later, Pakistan sent its military aircraft to China to deliver the epidemic control materials. The materials included medical protective suits, face masks, and goggles.

Around 300,000 tablets of Resochin (chloroquine phosphate), useful to some extent in the treatment for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from one of Bayer's subsidiaries in Pakistan were also transported to China.

Pakistan's National Assembly also passed a resolution expressing solidarity with China in its battle against the novel coronavirus outbreak. According to the resolution, the National Assembly expressed appreciation of the dedicated efforts and efficient policies implemented by the Chinese government and resilience of the people in the anti-epidemic fight.

Applauding Pakistan's friendly gesture, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said during an 'online' briefing held in Beijing a few weeks ago, "As China fights the outbreak, Pakistan has stood firmly by us, maintaining flights, and pooling medical supplies all over the country to help China. We are deeply grateful and touched by such trust and confidence."

On the international stage, many countries lashed out at China's lockdown policy terming it a brutal gag on people's civic liberties and right of movement. People of Asian descent suffered racist attacks worldwide. But the Pakistani government understood the need for the lockdown and condemned discrimination faced by Chinese people at every platform.

Particularly on the Hong Kong issue and matters pertaining to Xinjiang, Pakistan stood by Chinese strategies dispelling all antipathy.

Proving true the adage that a friend in need is a friend indeed, China cooperated with Pakistan to hash out the Coronavirus SOPs from the beginning. The Chinese government also sent 12,000 kits to Pakistan for the detection of COVID-19 cases in the country.

It merits mentioning that while being busy coping with the epidemic, China also rushed to rescue Pakistan from the locust crisis. The first batch of China's emergency aid arrived in Karachi, which included 50,000 liters of malathion and 14 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers. Chinese Consul General Li Bijian said that Beijing would provide malathion and high-efficiency remote sprayers and other control materials to the Pakistani government for free. Last month, Chinese experts arrived in Pakistan and visited Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab from February 23 to March 4 to assess the damage caused by the locust invasion. Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson said that as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 keep growing in Pakistan, China will help build the capacity to address the challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. In this regard, 'letters of exchange' were signed between the two countries during the recently concluded visit of President Arif Alvi to Beijing.

Pakistani President Arif Alvi's first visit to China reminded the world of the strength of the Pak-China ties. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee Li Zhanshu, all held talks and meetings with President Alvi, with important points being released through press releases.

This visit demonstrates the fine tradition of mutual assistance between China and Pakistan. Right after the epidemic broke out, Pakistan mobilized the whole nation to provide assistance to China, which Chinese people will always remember. It has also deepened the strategic mutual trust and consolidated practical cooperation between China and Pakistan. The two leaders exchanged in-depth views on the experience of epidemic prevention and control, coordination of epidemic response, socio-economic development, response to external economic and financial risks, and deepening of cooperation in major fields including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The two sides also signed an MOU on the establishment of working groups specializing in science and technology as well as agriculture under the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee, and agreed to expand cooperation in related areas under the CPEC framework. A series of strategic consensuses reached during this visit will surely further deepen China-Pakistan all-round cooperation.

Although the visit was short in duration, it occurred at a time of great significance, and effectively enhanced China-Pakistan traditional friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. In the course of jointly tackling COVID-19 and the locust invasion, China and Pakistan have stood together and helped each other, which speaks volumes about the strength of the friendship. It is a cherished friendship held deep in the heart of Pakistanis that provides the most solid foundation for China-Pakistan relations and sets an example for the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. It is believed that being tested by epidemics and other disasters, the iron-clad friendship between China and Pakistan will only grow stronger and deeper, which will inject even stronger impetus into the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

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