Deepening cooperation: CPEC put firmly back on track
Pakistan and China on Wednesday committed to extensive cooperation in several sectors, especially in the key development sectors related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
In a joint communique put out simultaneously by Islamabad and Beijing late on Wednesday, the two sides said they had detailed exchange of views on a broad segment of topics including bilateral relations, CPEC projects, flood rehabilitation, economic prosperity, terrorism, e-commerce, poverty alleviation, defence, tourism, regional peace and security among others.
The two sides agreed on the importance of the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership amidst the emerging global challenges.
“The leaders reaffirmed that close strategic ties and profound friendship between China and Pakistan was time-tested and resilient,” the communique read.
China stated that relations with Pakistan will always be given the highest priority in its foreign policy. This was reciprocated by Pakistan which underscored that Pakistan-China relationship is the cornerstone of its foreign policy and both sides reiterated their mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests.
Reviving CPEC & BRI
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed his government’s willingness to commit to high quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Both sides reviewed the progress of ongoing projects and agreed to continue the momentum of developing CPEC projects.
China agreed to the development of the Main Line-1 cross-country railway track given its significance under the CPEC framework.
The two sides agreed to build upon the consensus between their respective leaders and to ensure its earliest implementation. They also agreed to actively advance the Karachi Circular Railway.
With key projects under the development of the Gwadar port completed, both agreed to speed up progress on other related projects of the port and free zone.
In line with the leadership’s consensus to accelerate cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, IT, socio-economic development under CPEC, the two sides agreed to further build on the health, industry, digital and green corridors launched earlier this year and carry out relevant cooperation.
Both sides also welcomed interest from third parties to benefit from investment opportunities in priority areas of the CPEC cooperation such as industry, agriculture, information technology, science and technology, and oil and gas.
Pakistan expressed its commitment to Beijing’s one-China policy and extended support on issues such as Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
In reciprocal move, Beijing reaffirmed its support for Islamabad’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and promoting its socio-economic development and prosperity.
On the recent floods, Shehbaz gave an update to the Chinese leadership on post-flood relief and rehabilitation efforts.
He appreciated Beijing for its timely and generous assistance, including the provision of disaster relief supplies, contributions of Chinese post-disaster assessment and health teams to assist with damage assessment, experience sharing in post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation, and post-disaster disease response to step up capacity of medical treatment.
“China’s mobilization of assistance was a vivid reflection of the time-tested All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two countries.”
The Chinese leadership expressed condolences and sympathies on recent loss of life and property as a result of the unprecedented floods in Pakistan and expressed their resolve to stand by Pakistan in these difficult times and to assist in rehabilitating flood survivors in the affected areas.
The two sides noted the key role played by various bilateral cooperation mechanisms for deepening strategic communication.
The Spokespersons Dialogue and the Consultations on Arms Control and Disarmament was welcomed.
They also expressed their satisfaction over the outcomes of the three sessions of the Foreign Minister’s Strategic Dialogue and agreed to hold its next meeting in the first half of 2023 in Islamabad.
Security of Chinese in Pakistan
Pakistan on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to the safety and security of all Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in the country, taking vigorous measures in this regard.
Both sides expressed their strong determination to counter all threats and designs against Pakistan-China friendship.
The Chinese side appreciates the efforts of the Pakistani government to vigorously develop renewable energy projects including solar projects which aligns with the green, low carbon and environmental development of energy sector, and encourages participation of Chinese companies in this Pakistani endeavor.
The two sides agreed to actively promote the implementation of the Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation to support Pakistan’s industrial development.
Further, the two sides noted the steady increase in bilateral trade volume since the operationalization of the second phase of the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement. Both sides resolved to further coordinate to enhance trade liberalization under the second phase of CPFTA and agreed to convene an early meeting of Committee on Trade in Goods.
Exporting to China & e-commerce
The Chinese side expressed willingness to actively support the Pakistani side in expanding export to China and welcomed quality goods, including food and agricultural products from Pakistan to the Chinese market.
It was further agreed to encourage investments and partnerships in the export-oriented sectors of Pakistan which would contribute to achieving sustainable bilateral trade growth.
In this regard, the two sides agreed to conduct a joint study to further enhance bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
Further, the two sides agreed to fully leverage overland trade and exchanges by upgrading facilities at Khunjerab border port and strengthening cooperation on epidemic containment and customs clearance in border areas.
Acknowledging the massive size of China’s e-commerce market and its potential to further bolster bilateral trade, the two sides welcomed the signing of an MOU on e-commerce and jointly supported the establishment of Pakistan’s country pavilions on China’s e-commerce platforms.
Islamabad and Beijing, two sides which to agree to further strengthen cooperation on online payment systems, logistics, warehousing and customs facilitation, and enhance collaboration between start-ups and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
With Shehbaz appreciating the efforts of his Chinese counterparts in tackling the growing menace of the poor and destitute, the two sides noted that the first meeting of the China-Pakistan Joint Working Group on Trade, Investment and E-commerce and the China-Pakistan Poverty Reduction and Social Development Forum were held this year.
Exchanges and docking activities in the pharmaceutical, agricultural and shoe-making industries as well as capacity building courses on poverty reduction were organized.
China is willing to continue relevant practical cooperation with Pakistan to contribute to poverty reduction and socioeconomic development in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif thanked the Chinese leadership for the return of Pakistani students to Chinese education institutions.
The two sides agreed to inject new impetus into people-to-people contacts, tourism cooperation and cultural exchanges between the two countries, appreciated the role of the cultural cooperation agreement between the two governments and its executive programs and welcomed the extension of the current executive program to 2027.
The two sides further welcomed the decision to celebrate Pakistan-China Year of Tourism Exchanges in 2023 and the organization of a Gandhara Art Exhibition at the Palace Museum in Beijing in 2022-2023.
Noting the gradual resumption of flight operation between the two countries, the two sides agreed to further increase the frequency of direct flights including between Islamabad and Beijing in due course.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation, trust and communication between the armed forces of the two countries.
Underscoring that stronger strategic defence and security cooperation between China and Pakistan is an important factor of peace and stability in the region, the two sides agreed to maintain high-level military-to-military visits and exchanges and deepen cooperation in areas of training, joint exercises and military technology.
The two sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and expressed opposition to the politicization of the issue of counter terrorism.
China recognized Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The two sides agreed to further enhance counter terrorism cooperation to promote international peace and security.
The two sides reiterated that a peaceful and prosperous South Asia is in the common interest of all parties.
The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history that should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.
On Afghanistan, the two sides agreed that a peaceful, prosperous, interconnected and stable Afghanistan is fundamental to regional prosperity and progress. They expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the three Foreign Ministers’ meetings of the six neighboring countries of Afghanistan and looked forward to the next meeting to be held in Uzbekistan.
The two sides underscored the need for the international community to provide continued assistance and support to Afghanistan including through unfreezing of Afghanistan’s overseas financial assets. The two sides agreed to continue their humanitarian and economic assistance for the Afghan people and enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan, including through CPEC’s extension to Afghanistan.
GDI & GSI
Pakistan expressed support for China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI).
They agreed to further enhance cooperation within the GDI framework for realization of sustainable development goals.
With Pakistan having participated in the Group of Friends of GDI as one of the pioneering members, Beijing identified Pakistan as a priority partner under the GDI.
Moreover, the Pakistani side expressed support for the Global Security Initiative (GSI) put forward by the Chinese side as it aligned with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
The two sides agreed to promote international cooperation in this regard.
The two sides also supported consensus-based reform of the UN to respond to the interests and concerns of all Member States.
The two sides underlined the need to further strengthen coordination and collaboration within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and jointly push for deeper SCO cooperation across the political, security, business, connectivity and people-to-people fields, so as to better serve the common interests of regional countries, and make greater contributions to safeguarding regional peace and stability, promoting prosperity and development, and improving global governance.
The two sides recognized climate change as an existential threat and undertook to make concrete and concerted efforts to mitigate and adapt to the adverse impact of climate change.
Pakistan and China reaffirmed their commitment to the UNFCCC as well as to the goals, principles and provisions of its Paris Agreement, in particular the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR).
The two sides also recognized that the recent floods in Pakistan were closely linked to the adverse impact of climatic change for which developing countries bear little responsibility but are subject to a disproportionate impact.
The two sides called on developed countries to fulfill their commitments, take the lead in emissions reduction to ensure the development rights and space for developing countries, and provide adequate climate financing to developing countries.
Appreciating Pakistan’s initiative to combat human-induced climate change and China’s initiative to promote green cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, the two sides agreed to step up cooperation in such areas as ecosystem restoration and water resource management.
The two sides signed and concluded a number of agreements/MoUs, covering bilateral cooperation in areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural product, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property, infrastructure, flood relief, post-disaster reconstruction, GDI, animal disease control, livelihood, cultural cooperation, space, geosciences as well as law enforcement and security.
Earlier, the communique noted that meetings were held in an environment of traditional warmth, mutual strategic trust and commonality of views.