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UPDATED: June 1, 2015
President Xi's Heartwarming Visit Highlights Pakistan-China Friendship
By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif (left), Chief Minister of Punjab Province of Pakistan, during his visit to the country in April, as Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (center) looks on (COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI EMBASSY IN BEIJING)

What a memorable visit it was! The joy of the eager Pakistani nation knew no bounds. When two "Iron Brothers" met, the whole world was awestruck by the overwhelming warmth. In April we welcomed His Excellency Xi Jinping on a historic visit to Pakistan. This was President Xi's first visit to Pakistan after having been elected as president of the People's Republic of China, and the visit came at an extraordinary moment in global history. During this historic visit, Pakistan and China pledged to continue cooperation in all fields. As a result of this unforgettable visit, the Sino-Pak friendly relations touched new heights as both countries signed 51 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in different fields. Pakistan and China rolled out plans for a historic $46 billion portfolio, agreed upon under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

"Deeper than the deepest sea, higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey": This phrase is generally used to highlight the extent of closeness and intimacy of Pak-China relations. Both countries have enjoyed long-term consistent goodwill towards each other. Friendship with China has long been the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy. Both countries enjoy close cooperation and hold identical views on important world issues. Our unconditional relationship is based upon shared principles and interests and forms the foundation of cooperation in diverse fields. At the official, as well as popular levels, there is strong resonance of the long and rich history of close and cordial ties.

In the history of diplomatic relations since the second half of the 20th century, Pakistan-China ties have always been considered exemplary and worth emulating. Both Iron Brothers have stood up with each other in most difficult times and have resisted hegemonic powers through relentless struggle.

In recent years, Pakistan-China ties have entered into a major phase of history. Both brotherly countries are pursuing the CPEC, a project, which once completed, will unleash enormous economic opportunities for regional growth and integration. The CPEC, in physical terms, is a 2,000-km highway, stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar, through the Khunjerab Pass, but, in fact, this will integrate the economies of the two countries. The project is designed to establish a number of economic zones and physical links connecting both the countries. It will begin a new chapter of economic cooperation and will subsequently pave the way for progress and prosperity in the region, generating massive trade and economic activity and opening up of new avenues for the people of two countries. Indeed, Sino-Pak relations have entered a new phase of long-term collaboration that is a step towards a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and development in the region.

Pakistan has recently become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Invest Bank, launched by China. The bank will provide much-needed capital to Asian countries to build their infrastructure and thus mitigate poverty in Asia and create conditions of peace, harmony and growth. China has consistently supported Pakistan's application for full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

China and Pakistan are jointly making efforts to root out the menace of terrorism, and incredible efforts have been made in that regard in recent years.

On a personal note, I cannot help but salute the great leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as well, a Party that has not only brought nearly 700 million people out of poverty in four decades in China but has also catapulted China to become the globe's second largest economy. In the 1970s, this thought would have been a figment of imagination! Under the CPC leadership, China, having successfully fought imperialist forces and other forces of chaos and anarchy, steered itself towards development, national unity and internal cohesion.

To be honest, indeed all of us need to learn from China's success story. The rapid development of China has become a role model for the world, including Pakistan.

Taking a leaf from the Chinese development framework, we in Punjab are undertaking massive infrastructural and development projects. These projects range from construction and rebuilding of dams, roads, power plants, education, agriculture and energy.

In Punjab, we are also revamping our social sectors, adding nearly 1 million out-of-school children to our classrooms every year, while building new schools and adding facilities to existing ones, providing technical education to the students in the next three years. Similarly, interest-free loans for over half a million entrepreneurs over the past five years have helped lift millions out of poverty to lead an honorable life.

We have always welcomed Chinese investment. The historic friendship between Pakistan and China has now been turned into useful economic contact. This remarkable investment package, announced by China, is a splendid gift for Pakistanis. Energy projects would commence in the country, including Punjab, under the investment package. These would greatly help in overcoming the energy crisis in the country.

China has extended commendable cooperation in bringing Pakistan out of its energy crisis, which caused irreparable damage to Pakistan's economy. Besides energy projects, numerous development projects would also be completed through cooperation of China and all kinds of facilities would be provided to Chinese investors. A number of Chinese companies are investing in Pakistan, and investment of China in Pakistan will further increase in the future.

During the visit of H.E. Xi Jinping, the groundbreaking signing of financial agreements has demonstrated that there is a strong will on both the sides to implement the agreed program under CPEC framework as early as possible to help Pakistan meet its energy needs. In the face of emerging geostrategic threats, as well as opportunities shaped by the forces of globalization and imperatives of the 21st century, China and Pakistan have committed themselves to create a better and stronger future for regional security, development and growth.

Let me also take this opportunity to recognize the incredibly powerful, sagacious and thoughtful leadership of His Excellency President Xi Jinping. Under his dynamic leadership, China has entered into next phase of wide-ranging reforms that will put China on the road to stability, prosperity, and national consolidation, and will pave the way for China to assume its eminent role in human history.

Let me also emphasize that Pakistan and China relations are strong and robust. It is a reality that Pak-China friendship can neither be weighed nor measured, as the friendship between both the countries is tied with the everlasting relations of love, affection and sincerity, and this friendship is being further strengthened with the passage of time.

 Long live Pakistan-China friendship!

The author is the chief minister of Punjab Province of Pakistan

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