Beijing: Former Counsel General of China in Karachi has said that he was very fortunate to have learned Urdu and dedicated his youth to the cause of China-Pakistan friendship.
An Qiguang, in his 80s has served in Pakistan several times and worked there for a total of 16 years.
“I resided in the Embassy and Consulate General in Islamabad and Karachi for 16 years in four separate assignments. Pakistan was destined to be an indispensable part of my diplomatic career. I love Urdu and I love Pakistan,” he said in a recent interview with CEN.
He recalled that he started learning Urdu in 1959 after studying as an English major for two years. At the time, he never heard of Urdu and was not familiar with Pakistan either.
“When learning Urdu, by way of political study and reading newspapers, I sensed Pakistan increasingly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with China, which aroused my attention and respect. While working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I served as an interpreter for high-level visits between China and Pakistan.
In 1970, then Pakistani President Yahya Khan paid a state visit in China. At the state banquet, I was introduced to the President by Premier Zhou Enlai himself, which is an unforgettable experience,” An said.
In June 2006, I started an eight-year compilation work of the Urdu-Chinese Dictionary with some editors. The dictionary was finally unveiled in 2014, accomplishing the wishes of generations of Chinese Urdu experts, An said.
“Chinese people visiting Pakistan find they are treated like VIPs there. Such a feeling is further strengthened by visits to other countries,” An said.
“When we went out shopping on holiday, the shop owners often invited us to go inside to enjoy a short break. We told them we didn’t want to buy anything. Yet, they were still so hospitable and served cold drink or milk tea while telling us we all looked like Zhou Enlai, and thus were their friends.”
An also revealed that in the 1970s and 1980s, Pakistani Airlines would not cancel flights in China, even if there were a few passengers. This is a special friendship of Pakistan towards China.
An described China-Pakistan relations as both brothers and partners. He said that during the difficult period of China’s external environment, Pakistan Airlines became the only safe passage for China. For example, in 1971, Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger secretly visited Beijing during a trip to Pakistan, and laid the groundwork for Nixon’s visit to China. This meeting was facilitated by Pakistan through its strong diplomatic channels with China.
Moreover, Pakistan has led our civil aviation industry into the age of Boeing to some extent. That’s why I said the relations between China and Pakistan are like relations between two brothers and partners, An added.
Touching on the milestone projects between the two countries, An listed five keywords: Karakoram Highway, Taxila Heavy Machinery Complex, Jinnah Sports Stadium, Mianwali Nuclear Power Plant and Gwadar Port.
He explained that these projects are among the many symbols of the profound friendship between the two countries, which rely on their geographical advantages.
“On October 3, 2009, then Pakistani President hosted a reception at the president house to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. I was present at the reception and received the Sitara-e-Pakistan medal from the President,” An said.
“Having worked here for 16 years, Pakistan is undoubtedly my second home. So every trip to Pakistan is like a homecoming. That time, the joy and enthusiasm found in Islamabad make us feel at home indeed,” An added.
“Chinese is my mother tongue, while Urdu is my first foreign language. The place where Urdu speakers live, I compare it to my second home. After the nearly three-hour interview, the senior sent a text further explaining his understanding of the second home. I call it my second home because I love the country, and my experience proves that Pakistan is the most friendly country to my motherland in the world.”
At the end of the interview, An expressed his wishes for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan in Urdu and English respectively, inspiring more people to be engaged in promoting friendship between the two countries.