Opportunity cost

Courtesy:-   S M Hali

Security concerns emanating from the three weeks long protest rallies, sit-ins, bitter squabbling amongst politicians and constant power struggles forced the postponement of the Chinese president’s visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to undertake his first tour of South Asia after taking over as president. He was expected to make Islamabad his first port of call, followed by visits to New Delhi and Colombo. Xi will be the first Chinese president to visit Sri Lanka, part of the proposed Maritime Silk Road project and other important ventures. In keeping with traditional Chinese diplomacy, where high level sojourns are kept under wraps, the visit was not formally announced but the Chinese foreign ministry invited four senior journalists from Pakistan and three from Sri Lanka to Beijing for a briefing while a media group from India was to visit later.

China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao informed the visiting delegation regarding the impending presidential tour, without confirming the actual dates. His briefing centered on sharing details of the visit in the realm of cooperation with both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was heartening to note that China not only continues to keep Pakistan prominently in its highest level of consideration, extending a helping hand without attaching strings, but also seeks to provide unprecedented financial investment in projects, aimed at the socio-economic uplift of Pakistan.
The minister informed that the Chinese president was expected to have detailed discussions with Pakistani leaders during his upcoming visit on the prospects of exploring further opportunities of mutual cooperation. He named at least 25 major projects, especially in the energy sector, capacity building, technology development and communication infrastructure, especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being envisaged, planned and operated jointly by China and Pakistan. The president was expected to sign several new agreements as well as MoUs during his visit besides reviewing progress in the projects already being executed. 
The journalists queried Liu Jianchao regarding the perils to Chinese cooperation in Pakistan and the possibility of vested interests placing impediments in the path to fruition of early harvest and long-term development ventures. The minister’s response was categorical and definitive: no force can hinder the journey of progress and the bilateral relationship. Stressing on the cemented bonds that tie Sino-Pakistan relations, the minister reassured that China was not only determined to support Pakistan in all fields but wanted to convey the clear message to the government and the people of Pakistan that it firmly stood by them in their efforts for a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan, and that the deep level of mutual trust and confidence would thwart any evil designs by any negative force.
Besides the briefing, visiting media persons were provided the opportunity to tour the organisations engaged in implementing the projects envisioned or investing in the enterprises, e.g. the China Harbour Engineering Company that has constructed the first phase of the Gwadar deep sea port and the Dongfang Electric Corporation, responsible for successfully undertaking major assignments like the Ghazi-Barotha Hydro Power and Nandipur power generation plant amongst numerous others. The Export-Import Bank of China on the other hand is a serious investor that has already provided $ 3.6 billion in support to Pakistan in terms of concessional loans and export service credits. It was poised to sign new framework agreements with institutions in Pakistan to invest billions of dollars in upcoming development projects in Pakistan, especially in the energy sector, during the visit of President Xi Jinping. While the media persons were still in China it was learnt that the presidential visit to Pakistan was in jeopardy. Security concerns emanating from the three weeks long protest rallies, sit-ins, bitter squabbling amongst politicians and constant power struggles forced the postponement of the Chinese president’s visit. A blame game has erupted between the current political dispensation ruling Islamabad and the protesters attempting to dethrone it, with both sides censuring the other for being responsible for the postponement.
The prime minister’s advisor on national security and foreign affairs and the finance minister claimed during parliament’s joint session that the cancellation of the Chinese president’s visit has jeopardised $ 35 billion Chinese investment in Pakistan.
The redeeming factor, however, is that Sino-Pak relations are not held hostage to the cancellation or rejuvenation of presidential visits. The Chinese government has no favourites amongst Pakistan’s political parties. Its relationship with the people of Pakistan is time tested and deep rooted. China has reassured that the visit will certainly take place as soon as the political climate in Islamabad becomes conducive to receiving foreign dignitaries. China will definitely honour its commitment for the social uplift of Pakistan. We may temporarily miss the fanfare of Xi Jinping personally inaugurating various projects, adding impetus to early harvest projects and ensuring culmination of long-term ventures that hold promise for Pakistan’s economic stability. Are our politicians cognizant of the opportunity cost of Pakistan’s better future? All they have to do is sink their differences and jointly tackle the challenges.

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