Pakistanís friendship with China is not new; it is a profound and old relationship between both the countries and their people. Both nations have come to a common understanding based on the idea of peace and prosperity for South Asia and the entire world. Both have very important geo-strategic locations. Last month, the Communist Youth League of China, the Communist Partyís international department, invited South Asian young political leaders to China for an 11-day long conference. All the countries in South Asia were invited to the conference where the Chinese president was to pay a visit. From Pakistan I, along with Tariq Mehmood and PML-N Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) Ashiq Hussain and Talal Chaudhry, were a part of Pakistanís delegation. Other political parties of South Asia whose representatives were invited included the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress from India, the Awami League and Nationalist Party of Bangladesh and the Communist Party of Nepal, while a young female politician from the Sri Lankan ruling party was also part of the delegation that reached China on August 26, 2014 and stayed there till September 5.
Being a Pakistani, the respect and affection we received in China was beyond words and expectations. Whether it was government officials or ordinary Chinese citizens, their respect and love for Pakistanis was tremendous. During our 11-day stay in China, there arose circumstances when we faced severe humiliation and mental anguish, especially when we were told by a neighbouring countryís representative that state-owned television in Pakistan had been hijacked by miscreants and protestors. Later, during a dialogue, Chinese officials gave details of the idea of a ĎMaritime Silk Roadí and, during Pakistanís turn, when I was given the floor to speak, I tried to convince Chinese officials that though the Maritime Silk Road is also a brilliant trade corridor, Gwadar port should be the first priority for China and all the countries of South Asia as it will benefit the masses and, for the countries of South Asia, it would be the cheapest trade route. All of a sudden, I was asked how Pakistan would secure the Chinese or anyone else coming to Pakistan if it could not secure its own parliament. Again this question was put forward by a delegate from a neighbouring country.
During this visit to China what I realised is that, although India and China have a border dispute, the Indians emphasise more and more on trade and talked less about border disputes. When I questioned an Indian fellow delegate about the existing disputes between India and China, and also about what he was expecting from the Chinese presidentís visit to India, he replied that though there are disputes between China and India, they did not mean we stop our trade and cooperation because India wants more and more trade with China; sooner or later there will come a day when these border disputes will become a minor issue compared to the trade between both. India, he said, wants its focus on investment and trade with China rather than on disputes. Nepali delegates too wanted their country to be a bridge between India and China. Nepal is going to play an important role in future trade routes and the same goes for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Unlike these countries, Pakistan has one of the best trade corridor routes in South Asia but we have zero lobbying for it. I was shocked to learn that other than Chinese officials, very few South Asian delegates knew about Gwadar port and its importance. This is the time when we should focus on trade and our trade corridors. Lobbying for them is a necessity for Pakistan. If Pakistan wants its Gwadar route to be operational, rather than giving a superior position to a single country, Pakistan must invite all regional countries to come forward and invest in Gwadar. We must not commit any blunder by giving a superior position to any one country, one that is already finding other means of trade in South Asia. Before I end my piece, let me also detail the Chinese view: they do believe that Pakistanís soil is being used for violence against China but they believe it is because of individuals who are getting training in Pakistan and who then come to China to fuel ongoing Muslim separatist movements. They do not accuse the state machinery for this as they believe Pakistan is their friend and that Chinaís enemy is Pakistanís enemy. Through this newspaper I would like to extend my heartiest thanks to the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China for their wonderful reception. I want to also urge the government of Pakistan to invest in creating awareness in the international community, especially among South Asiaís young political leaders, about the usefulness and possible fruits of Gwadar port that will be fully realised once it is operational.