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[Honder College of Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot, 28 Sept. 2018]



First of all, I would like to thank President Zhou Yushu for his generous invitation to join you today, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Honder College of Inner Mongolia Normal University.

My wife Shahnaz and I would like to congratulate everyone associated with the establishment of this fine institution. We share your sense of accomplishment. 

Institutions are not built in a day. They are not built in a year. Can they be built in ten years?  The answer is ‘Yes’. You at Honder have demonstrated that.

With foresight, planning, determination and dedication, you have in one decade created a centre of educational excellence that is known and recognised throughout the world.

And yet, what are ten short years in the lives of countries like China and Pakistan. Both are seventy years young, and yet each is also five thousand years old.  How, you might ask, can a country in the same breath of time be young and old? Allow me to explain.

When the Xa and the Shang Dynasties ruled your country, we in region had our Indus Valley Civilisation. Many of you might have heard of the ancient Indus Valley cities of Moenjo Daro in Sindh and Harappa in the Punjab. They were thousands of years old and like your Shang dynasty, the Indus Valley civilisation left behind records and documentation.

Since that period long ago, both our countries have experienced the scourge of invasions, the unbearable burden of colonisation, and the disastrous consequences of misrule.

Finally, in August 1947, we in Pakistan achieved independence.  Two years later, in October 1949, your People’s Republic of China was born. Ever since then the histories of our two countries, instead of running parallel to each other, have intersected.     

We in Pakistan were the first Muslim country to recognise the People’s Republic of China. We supported the PRC at the Bandung Conference in 1955. Over the years that followed, our relationship with the People’s Republic of China has grown from strength to strength. For example, you permitted Pakistan International Airlines to be the first foreign airline to have landing rights in China.  You helped us become economically and industrially self-sufficient by establishing such engineering plants as Heavy Mechanical Complex, the Heavy Electrical Complex and the Kamra aircraft factory near Taxila.  

For those of you who are familiar with our history, you will know that Taxila (which is near our capital Islamabad) was the site of one of the oldest universities in the subcontinent. I like to think of it as our Honder College, where three thousand years ago, students like you were taught by professors slightly older than your Faculty.   

During 1970 and 1971, Pakistan played a crucial role. It acted as the conduit for conveying secret communications between your country and the United States of America. Confidential messages passed from your Chinese leadership through our President Yahya Khan to US President Richard Nixon in the White House. These communications culminated in the now famous secret visit by Dr Henry Kissinger to Beijing in July 1971. Dr Kissinger flew secretly on a Pakistani aircraft to Beijing where he held decisive meetings with Premier Zhou Enlai.

Premier Zhou Enlai was later asked how much importance he had attached to the role of Pakistan. Considerable, he replied. This is the first time that messages of this significance have gone from a Head, through a Head, to a Head.

That became the title of my book on Dr Kissinger’s visit. Today, I am especially honoured that a member of your Honder faculty and my special friend – Professor T J Richer, Director of Honder’s Pakistan Research Center – has translated my book, so that a wider audience of our Chinese friends can read our shared history.

Relations between our two countries have increased until we are now truly Iron Brothers.

Nothing though in the history of inter-state economic cooperation can match the quantum and significance of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The CPEC is more than an aggregation of almost forty plus energy, road, and infrastructural projects. It is more than the vitally important Gwadar port on our southern coastline. It is much more in value than the $60 billion pledged the Chinese government. (incidentally, that is the largest economic commitment the PRC has made to any country.)

The CPEC is more than all that.  It is an example of the vision of your great leader President Xi Jinping and his One Belt, One Road policy.  We in Pakistan have made his policy the cornerstone of our own national economic objectives. We are brothers in trade, in security, and in regional development.

Your President Zhou Yushu is also a visionary. He responded positively and without hesitation to my suggestion that Honder College help students to learn Chinese at Aitchison College where I was then Principal.  Like all visionaries, he saw into the future, and welcomed its possibilities both for Pakistan and for China.

Looking into the future, where will we be in the year 2033, when Honder College celebrates its 25th anniversary?  

I hope I shall be fit enough to travel even then and to join you in your 25th anniversary celebrations, as I have today on your 10thanniversary. 

In 2033, I intend to ask a graduate of your Honder College the same question the noble Confucius (whose birth anniversary it is today) asked students in his time: “Isn't it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?”

And then I will ask Confucius' second question: “Isn't it also great when friends visit from distant places?”

I stand here today as your friend from ‘a distant place’ – Pakistan. Tomorrow, my wife Shahnaz and I will leave as friends who have seen a dream fulfilled. We have travelled from our home in Lahore to our second home, here in Hohhot.

May Honder College grow, prosper and expand. And who knows:  By 2033, there might even be a Honder College of Pakistan Normal University.

Finally, I would like to mention that Shahnaz and I were in Beijing the other day. We visited the Forbidden City, where I found your flag lying on the ground.

An incident involving Premier Zhou Enlai came to mind, during his visit to a factory in Karachi (Pakistan) in 1956, he noticed a small Pakistani flag that had fallen. He picked it up, dusted it, kissed it, then folded it and put it in his pocket.  ‘One must respect the flag of a brother country.’

So today, let me emulate that great and wise leader by kissing your flag, folding it and placing in my pocket, next to my heart.




04 October 2018
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