Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Economic partnership adds vitality to friendship

By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-21 08:05

Saturday marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China. What started as the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1951 has today become an unbreakable bond of infallible trust; time-tested friendship, and above all a shared world-view.

While the leaders have changed in Beijing and Islamabad over the decades, the bonds of friendship and brotherhood have remained strong and the two countries have always stood shoulder to shoulder.

Our two nations have become inseparable in shared values, interests, and a global outlook. We speak entirely different languages, have our unique cultures and until recently had limited direct people-to-people interaction. Yet our people have developed an immense reservoir of love and friendship for each other. What a bond, what an amazing relationship!

We have walked together for 65 years now, and we see 2016 as another promising year for the mutual prosperity and development of our two countries.

Today our bilateral trade is over $18 billion. In today's world, the economic aspect of inter-state relations has a critical priority. It is a strategic imperative that guarantees longevity and the sustainability of relations between countries. China and Pakistan have kept their economic relationship at the core of their relations and aim to forge an even stronger trade and economic partnership.

The 21st century is the "Asian Century". China is the driver of not just Asia's growth but also of the world. China has successfully lifted 700 million people from poverty through prudent policies and reforms. The Chinese achievement in successfully tapping the demographic dividend of its huge population is an example of how a country's human resources can be leveraged as a factor of development.

With the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence introduced by late Premier Zhou Enlai, China has followed a foreign policy that has earned the respect of the world. It has emerged peacefully on the world scene by employing soft power rather than the deployment of hard power. Pakistan looks at the peaceful rise of China as a source of strength and stability for the Southwest and Central Asian regions.

President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative is central to peaceful and prosperous regional integration. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a flagship project of the initiative will be a game changer for both our countries and the wider region. The Chinese commitment to invest $46 billion in Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects will be transformational in reshaping the destiny of Pakistan, as well as the region.

The Belt and Road Initiative, the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, has all the attributes of binding many geographical regions into a well-knit robust economic block. It can also serve as the basis for durable peace in the region and beyond, by replacing animosity with cooperation among the member countries.

History bears witness to the fact that economic partnerships have turned rivals and foes into friends and partners. Xi's visionary concept is one of development, progress and prosperity through win-win partnerships. It is the harbinger of a new era of peace and stability, offering the promise of transforming the regional economic landscape.

China and Pakistan are resolved like never before to work together to "achieve a community of shared destiny" as envisaged by Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

We are two countries with a shared history of intellectual and economic growth. Two people bound by bonds of friendship and trust. We have been great together for the past 65 years, and we know the next 65 will be even better.

The writer is the chief minister of Punjab Province, Pakistan

(China Daily 05/21/2016 page5)

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