50 years of Sino-US diplomatic ties: Kissinger lauds Pakistan’s ‘secret diplomacy’ in connecting China and US

Senator Mushahid says it's an honour for Pakistan to play pivotal role in China-US ties

ISLAMABAD: As China and United States observe 50 years of diplomatic relations, eminent diplomat Dr Henry Kissinger Sunday praised Pakistan for its key role in ending the stalemate and connected both China and the US through secret diplomacy.

China Development Forum, a high-level annual event organised by China’s State Council in Beijing, organised a webinar on ‘50 Years of China-US Relations’ with keynote speeches from former US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger and Senator Mushahid Hussain on Pakistan’s pivotal role in arranging Dr Kissinger’s secret journey to China in 1971.

The China Development Forum was attended by a large number of high-ranking officials, policymakers, economists, opinion and business leaders in Beijing, while Dr Kissinger and Senator Mushahid spoke virtually from New York and Islamabad respectively.

Recounting the memories, Dr Kissinger elaborated how former President Yahya Khan had acted as a go-between China and the US, communicating secretly with then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and then US President Richard Nixon, which led to Dr Kissinger’s path-breaking secret journey in a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane from Islamabad to Beijing on July 9, 1971.

Dr Kissinger described how the first message from China was in the form of a handwritten note which was personally dictated to him in the White House by the then Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, Agha Hilaly.

Speaking next after Dr Kissinger, Senator Mushahid , representing Pakistan, said that this historic breakthrough in China-US relations became possible due to the “indispensable role of Pakistan which enjoyed the trust of both China and the United States, whose then-president, Richard Nixon, had tremendous affection and goodwill for Pakistan”.

Senator Mushahid said that Pakistan’s then-president, General Yahya Khan, once entrusted with this task by both President Nixon and premier Zhou Enlai, undertook this sensitive mission with ‘military precision, secrecy and deception’, with an official announcement of a decoy visit by Dr Kissinger to Nathiagali on the pretext that ‘the American official was resting due to an upset stomach’, while he had secretly flown to Beijing.

Mushahid said that President Yahya relied only on a two-man team of his top diplomats, Foreign Secretary Sultan Mohammed Khan and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Agha Hilaly.

“It was an honour for Pakistan to play such an important role in the shaping of history, as Dr Kissinger’s visit to China led to a tectonic shift in the global balance of power in 1971. The normalisation of relations had been beneficial for not just China and the US but also Asia and the world,” Senator Mushahid said.

He said that China had helped the US win the Cold War and the US helped China come out of isolation which led later to China’s reform and opening-up policy that has transformed China.

Senator Mushahid concluded that 50 years later, one lesson of China-US relations is that cooperation is good for both the countries and there is no room for outmoded policies like containment or a new Cold War.

Mian Abrar
Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]

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