BEIJING, May 26 – Former Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Zhou Gang said that friendly cooperation has been the mainstream of the past 70 years, which is of great significance for the two countries.
He told China Economic Net (CEN) that he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in 1962 and successively served as Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and India from 1988 to 2001.
Recalling his working experience in Pakistan from 1991 to 1995, Zhou was particularly excited, saying that he will never forget the profound friendship between China and Pakistan.
The Sino-Pak friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. The friendship between local people and the Chinese still moved Zhou to date.
On April 25, 1992, Ambassador Zhou Gang went north along the Karakoram Highway on a visit to Gilgit. Since the highway, also called the “China-Pakistan Friendship Highway”, was built with the help of China in the 1960s and 1970s, the residents along the road always give Chinese people warm and friendly reception.
“On our way back to the embassy the next day, we had a short rest on a hillside, where a group of children saw us and pointed in our direction. When they walked near and found the Chinese national flag flying on our car, they immediately cheered and shouted in Chinese: “Chairman Mao! Zhou Enlai!” Zhou recalled.
Despite these children may had never walked out of the mountainous area or received school education, they knew great Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. The seeds of Pakistan-China friendship had been deeply planted in their young hearts, Zhou said with his eyes reddening.
“It was getting dark as we continued on our way. Unfortunately, we encountered a landslide which hindered our way forward.
At this moment, a Pakistani sergeant came and gave a salute to us suddenly, saying ‘your excellency, this road was built for us by Chinese friends. Whenever you take this road, you are welcome. This road is always open to you!”
The fallen earth and stones were quickly cleared up that night. Zhou held his hands tightly, saying in Urdu “ brother, thank you very much!”
Although the diplomatic work looks glamorous, it is also full of challenges. During his tenure as Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Zhou Gang experienced three incidents of kidnapping Chinese citizens, among which one happened in October 1992, leaving him a deep impression.
On October 19 six Chinese experts working in Shandak Gold-Copper Mine in Baluchistan were on their way to Karachi to purchase living supplies. However, they were unexpectedly hijacked by a group of long-waiting armed personnel in a corner. After being taken into a car, they were sent to Afghanistan.
Upon learning of the incident, Zhou promptly reported it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, who directed that every possible means be made to rescue the Chinese compatriots as soon as possible. Zhou made an urgent appointment with important Pakistani officials.
When Zhou met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the PM expressed his unease and regret over the abduction of Chinese experts, saying that he fully understood the feelings of his Chinese friends, and would do everything possible to rescue Chinese friends!
Fortunately, the six Chinese experts were unharmed. These Afghan people told the experts that they knew China was a friend of Afghanistan and that they had no choice but to do so. They treated these Chinese experts very well, and sometimes even slaughtered chickens and sheep and bought fruits for them.
People from all walks of life in Pakistan were very concerned about the incident. The central and local governments of Pakistan had made every effort to contact the Afghan government and received its active cooperation. Thanks to the efforts of all parties, the six Chinese experts were released safely and returned to Pakistan after 11 days.
At noon on March 22, 1995 when Ambassador Zhou Gang was about to leave his post and return to China, a grand ceremony was held in the hall of the Presidential Palace, where Pakistani President Farooq Leghari met with Zhou Gang and awarded him the Hilal-i-Pakistan Medal for his contributions to Pakistan-China relations and the economic and social development of Pakistan.
At the subsequent luncheon attended by the ambassadors of many countries to Pakistan, President Leghari said to Ambassador Zhou’s wife Deng Junbing, “Professor Deng, you have done a lot in Pakistan for the friendship between Pakistan and China. Ambassador Zhou’s medal half belongs to you!”
As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan, Zhou Gang believes that China-Pakistan friendship is deepening and bilateral cooperation has been greatly expanded, adding that this friendly cooperation is not only beneficial to the two peoples but also conducive to peace and stability in South Asia.