A genuine correlation between the two words ’friends’ and ‘masters’ is only half true. Either individuals, groups or the nations would be friends or in a subject-master relationship but not co-existing as masters as well as friends.

In foreign policy absolute friendship amongst the nations is only a myth. Only Plato could, perhaps, afford to perceive such a Utopian or ideal friendship in his primitive world. Thus far, the modern world is hardly to find such a friendship amongst the nations set up on the basis of any Platonic love or love without any interest.

A maxim says, in foreign policy there is no foe, no friend but interest. Therefore, if the veil of interest is lifted, the relation between the words friends, subjects and masters is easily ruled out resulting into slave-master relationship and not that of friend-master.

A slave could hardly be a friend of his master, whatsoever. Therefore, a vacuum is to be filled up by coining a new word covering the scope, philosophy and effect of relations between the nations other than friendship and the mastership prevailing today. Consequently, in its stead, we, perhaps, have to coin a new term fabricated as ‘partners’.

The phrase ‘friends, not masters’ was first echoed in the air in the late ‘60s‘with the advent of President Ayub’s autobiography, ’Friends, not masters’. Amongst others, it discovered phonetics of ’Third World’ out of the then two super powers, the US and the USSR. Perhaps, being disillusioned of the so-called US-Pak friendship relationship, he visualised any third model of relationship for Pakistan, maybe under emerging China, based on friendship instead of subject-master relationship. Decades thereafter, President Musharaf, was also seen in the identical line through his autobiography, ‘In the line of fire’.

In the recent visit of Pakistani Premier to China, the Chinese counterpart Mr. Li, perhaps, better translated our wishes and the type of relationship likely to prevail in future Sino-Pak ties. He opined, “China and Pakistan are all-weather partners, (emphasis ‘partners’ not ‘friends’ this time). Pakistan has always been regarded as a foreign policy priority by China.”

The legal meaning of the words, friend, partner and master would further distinguish their scope, philosophy and effect for the path forward for China in general and for Pakistan in particular. The future Sino-Pak relations are seen to be chequered with strips of both socio-economic benefits as well as complications, especially in Pakistan’s socio-economic and cultural patterns.

Webster’s Law dictionary defines friend as a person one attached to another by affection or esteem, and in other words of the same nation, party or group. Black’s Law dictionary defines partner as one who shares or takes part with another, especially in a venture with shared benefits and shared risks; and master as one who has personal authority over another’s services. Thus partners have greater element of consideration than affection as against friendship and there is neither consideration nor affection under master-slave model of relationship but authority.

In the recent Sino-Pak talks, the Chinese Foreign Minister, perhaps, as a partner clarified that there were no plans to ‘scale back’ the economic corridor and if there is any change, it would be on the increase in the number of projects and not the decrease. On the other hand, Pakistani Premier, perhaps, as a friend expected the necessary support and assistance from China in tiding over current economic difficulties, more socio-economic development not over mere infrastructure, progress, raise in standard of living and the growth rate. China agreed to the Pakistani expectations in principle but linked it with more details to be discussed between the ‘concerned authorities’.

China reportedly has certain reservations in relation to corruption and law and order situation in Pakistan. Law and order apart for a while which is not an issue with China but she herself has been sailing in the same boat of corruption as is witnessed from the recent hangings of certain top officials including army officers.

Let Pakistan this time dispels the impression that beggars must not be choosers. Let’s be choosers this time. Admittedly and as obvious, the character of talks between the two leaderships, it shall lean in favour of China in terms of independent nature of policies and the other terms of references in all sectors of mutual interest. Pakistan has to be on toes and flexible in policies till the time CPEC is practically seen materialised on the ground and thus irrevocable. However, Pakistan has to be confident to create and acquire her geo-strategic importance in the current situation and strive to secure independent position in critical clauses of agreements. Pakistan’s experience in the past has been lopsided in favour of China in Free Trade Agreements vis-à-vis Bangladesh and other South Asian countries where China has been more favouring towards them than Pakistan.

Pakistan has learnt from the history that it has learnt nothing from the history. The dilemma of Pakistan’s foreign policy has ever been to losing on the table what it won on the field. Pakistan’s leadership is seen to be predominantly under pressure from the pricking of the international forces at one hand and the opposition, whatsoever, the public and the media on the other. May it be a case of Tashkent Agreement, Simla Agreement, Kargal, 9/11 or any other agreements of trade and treaties compromising the very sovereign character of state.

In the long run, Pakistan has to secure independent political, socio-economic, trade, financial, fiscal and monetary policies in ties with China. Pakistan’s state, society and culture may not afford to lose their independent and peculiar characteristics, whatever quantity and quality they have, at the altar of investment, economic assistance, technology and the incorporation of Chinese state and private companies in Pakistan. Pakistan, unfortunately, is already in turmoil in terms of law and order situation and social destructions. The influx of Chinese firms into Pakistan may not be let loose to master over our indigenous trade, manufacturing, industry and the skilled and unskilled human resource. Reportedly, certain convicted engineers undergoing imprisonment in the jails of China are exported to Pakistan in various industries where they are escorted by police. Certain other incidences are also reported wherein Chinese managerial and technical staff in Pakistan is found to be involved in various types of crimes targeting not only Pakistani’s but also there Chinese fellows having their previous enmities and backgrounds. We have to be mindful that even the countries like Saudi Arabia who are deemed to be sufficiently handicapped at the hands of expatriate skilled labour has been found compelled to deport the expatriates in order to achieve their national objectives despite the fact that these expatriates were not only earning for the benefit of their local silent partners or ‘Kafeels’ but also supporting their infrastructure, industry, transport and even house hold by providing the skilled services.

Pakistan has to avail this opportunity of progress and growth arising out of CPEC projects. CPEC is not merely a transport project and the project attached to a number of economic and agricultural initiatives but also read between the lines to be a mega political project emerging to a gigantic consolidation of regional bloc ultimately enhancing the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan. However, may that it be, Pakistan cannot afford to be a colony, a holding or a subsidiary company of any Crown or of any Great Hall of People, whatsoever. Pakistan can only afford to be friend or a partner and not to be mastered. Let it be a change of friends or the partners and not the masters from one pole to the other.


The writer is a socio-political analyst.