Pakistan and China moved in lockstep a notch higher than their “time-tested” and “all-weather” friendship status on Sunday when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared that “China’s enemy is our enemy”.
“China’s friend is our friend, and China’s enemy is our enemy,” he said in a meeting with the host country’s Executive Vice Premier Li Keqiang at the State Guest House on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia.
“We consider China’s security as our own security,” Gilani said as he renewed support for Beijing’s position on Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.
Li reciprocated Gilani’s sentiments. “No matter what changes take place at the international level, we will uphold Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “China supports Pakistan’s role in regional and international affairs.”
Beijing’s reiteration of support for Pakistan’s territorial integrity came weeks after US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives seeking independence for the insurgency-hit Balochistan.
Premier Gilani thanked Li for his country’s ringing endorsement of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Islamabad gives high importance to the security of Chinese citizens on its soil, he said and added that he was personally monitoring the process to provide them extensive protection.
A Chinese woman was shot dead in Peshawar in February. The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed that they killed her to “avenge the atrocities carried out by Chinese security forces” on Muslims in Xinjiang.
But PM Gilani renewed Pakistan’s support for China’s position on the Muslim-majority region. He condemned the recent ‘terrorist acts’ in Kashgar, Xinjiang, and said that Pakistan considered the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a common threat to both countries.
Last month, gunmen stabbed 13 people to death in Xinjiang in an attack that Chinese officials blamed on ETIM separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan and who were allegedly trained in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Officially, Beijing avoided criticism of Pakistan though.
About foreign policy, Gilani said Pakistan is mindful of the importance of maintaining a working engagement with the United States but would not compromise its sovereignty and national dignity. He referred to his meeting with the US President Barack Obama in Seoul, where he told him that Pakistan’s parliament would set the contours of future relations with the US.
China is engaged in a large number of projects in Pakistan, especially in the energy and infrastructure development sectors. Gilani said Islamabad would appreciate if Beijing also helps in the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project and on the construction of small- and medium-sized dams. He also sought cooperation from the Chinese side on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
But Premier Gilani renewed his country’s resolve to not abandon the project – which is so vital to overcome the burgeoning energy crisis that has sparked violent protests and rioting in the country.
“Realisation of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will open new vistas of cooperation,” Gilani told Iranian Vice President Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh in a separate meeting on the fringes of the Boao Forum.
“Pakistan is currently facing energy shortage,” Gilani said and added that 1,000 megawatts of electricity being supplied from Iran to Balochistan would prove helpful in overcoming the crisis.
Gilani said there was a need to address the issues of narcotics and drug trafficking in the region. He added that Pakistan considers Jundullah as a terrorist outfit. Iran has blamed the Sunni insurgent group, which is based in its Sistan-o-Balochistan province, for stoking violence in the country. Jundullah is rumoured to have sanctuaries in southwestern Pakistan.
On the regional front, Gilani said Pakistan wants to maintain good ties with its neighbours, including Iran, Afghanistan, China and India and called for joint efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. He also renewed support for Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. Western powers contest Tehran’s nuclear programme and allege that the Islamic Republic is secretly developing an atomic bomb.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.