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South Asia

Pakistan-China Relations in the 21st Century

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Authors: Areeja Syed and Ahmed Bux Jamali*

Pakistan recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1950 and started diplomatic relations on 21st May 1951. Pakistan from the very beginning has kept its foreign policy approach very friendly as both are immediate neighbors as well. Historically, four major events reshaped the smoothness of relationship towards more cooperation which are the boundary agreement in March 1963, support in 1965 war, the Kissinger secret visit arranged by Pakistan to China and rare veto option adapted by China in United Nations Security Council. The essence of relationship is termed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto “I should like to make it clear beyond all doubt that we have friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China and that nothing will be permitted in any way to endanger those relations. Our relations with China are an independent factor in our foreign policy and not contingent on any other. In the best interests of Pakistan, we shall maintain the spirit of goodwill, friendship and cordiality with the great People’s Republic of China. I declare that our friendship with China is not tainted by any form of bargain or barter. It is steadfast amity between two neighboring Asian States.”  and one of the famous statement of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang “If you love China, Love Pakistan too.” These statements are not only the building blocks but the proven realities of the glories of time between the two countries. Over 60 years of cordial relations, the depth has escalated more and more keeping in view changing international stages from global war on terror to other major international events onwards . China proved her all seasoned friendship based on equality and mutual respect and harmony. The high level talks and invitations to dignitaries creates a conducive atmosphere for the bilateral relationship. Pakistan and china need each other in the field of economy, strategic alliances, military joint ventures as both are nuclear power countries and student’s exchanges programs to further strengthen the ties in the advancement of science and technology and many more aspects of life.

Economic Relationship

The economy is the soul of foreign policy so is the case here in Pak-China relations. Pakistan and China signed a preferential trade agreement in 2003 where goods and services started revolving around the two countries. With the passage of time, China signed The free trade agreement (FTA) which was adapted in 2006. It was estimated that the bilateral trade was estimated to hit $15 billion by 2011. One basic advantage of signing of FTA was economic enhancement and its operationalization in October 2009 proved to be very economic-oriented outlook for Pakistan’s exports with China.  On the other hand, Pakistani and Chinese banking sectors are cooperating for a long time. Earlier, Bank of China was opened with two branches in 1951 but couldn’t succeeded. Pakistani governmental banks such as National Bank of Pakistan prepared to open branches in China in April 2008 which was later on negotiated between the officials. It was during the previous Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pakistan in December 2010 that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was invited to open branches in Pakistan and the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) was offered to commence activities in China.

There must be a series of visit of businessman and tycoons of both countries to expand the volume of trade of different items of the two countries. The economic strength must be revolutionized to keep this zone well established and free from any trade barriers. The business communities must create a platform to encourage the new products to China and then at the global market. The two sides expressed satisfaction over the growing volume of their bilateral trade, which has crossed US$ 15 billion and agreed to make efforts to raise it to US$ 20 billion in next three years. The growth rate must be positive and new avenues must be created for investors of both countries.

Strategic Partnership

Pakistan being a highly strategic country, is very much advantageous and pivotal to China keeping in view her strategic interests in this region. The enhancement in the cooperation of defense production regarding aircrafts, fighter bombs, tanks, and heavy artillery is remarkable for the changing regional dynamics.  The main reason of such a huge cooperation of China is to secure the region and achieving the desired goals such as access to Indian and Arabian sea, surveillance to US and Indian Naval activities and access to the markets of Middle East particularly in the field of energy. Their joint ventures and joint production have led to manufacture the MBT 2000 Al-Khalid Tank and JF-17 Thunder, a fighter aircraft, which has the strategic significance and is a unique example of Sino-Pak deep rooted friendship. The unprecedented level of friendship can be evaluated in the views of the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz that; “The relations between the two countries are growing very fast, particularly for development of communication and energy sectors, Pak-China cooperative partnership has ushered in a new era in line with the ideas and vision, conceived by the leadership of the two countries”

This idea has been inherited from generations to generations among the nations of two countries, that Pakistan is always their first and foremost priority in the foreign policy and China is the cornerstone for Pakistan’s foreign policy as well. The strategic relationship of China with Pakistan is very important for both because it enables China to limit the regional ambitions of India towards its hegemonic designs and further strengthening the Pakistan as a major strategic partner in this region.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

This is one of the best mega project in the history of the two states and indeed a great symbol of the deep rooted friendship of Sino-Pak relationship from 1951 to 2015. The agreement was signed between the leaders of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on his visit to Pakistan in April 2015 respectively. The historic words of Xi are remarkable for the glory as he described that “This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother.” The main aims of such a project is to connect Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang through a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas and will operationalize from Gwadar to Kashgar. Overall construction costs are estimated over $46 billion with the entire project. The Corridor is an extension of China’s proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative and indeed a fate changer of billions of people. It will open new avenues for employments and trade pathway from China and the Middle East and Africa at large . Moreover, CPEC is not bound on One Belt One Road policy, its maximize the opportunities between two countries which has various initiatives for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives globally. China has a lot to gain from its economic corridor arrangement with Pakistan; its centuries ‘old vision of reaching the warm waters through the shortest route is coming to fruition through peaceful ways. This will represent a new model of regional and South Asia cooperation which will offer new opportunities for Asia’s rejuvenation and the common prosperity of all countries of the globe led by China and its vision of connectivity.

Challenges And Opportunities

The world has entered into a new era of Globalization and interdependence and the nations have opted mutually beneficial foreign policy behaviors. Those behaviors are based on economic integration and security cooperation, strategic partnership and making peaceful alliances. Pakistan and China are the well-wishers of peace and prosperity not only in South Asia but the world at large. With the changing geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic realities, it is necessary for Pakistan to keep on testing the loyalty, limits and trust of China relationship. Ostensibly, the dynamics of the world have changed as the world has fast traversed the era of economic war and has also has entered the new era of economic cooperation simultaneously. Resultantly, the neighboring countries collaborate with one another economically so that the whole region reaps dividends. The changing dynamics can be seen on10th July,2015 at the 15th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at Ufa, Russia where the status of both Pakistan and India was raised from observer to full member. This will reshape the strategic dynamics and pose new challenges between Pakistan and China relations. Just a few years ago, no one could have imagined that Russia, China, India and Pakistan would opt to join hands for shared economic interests, regardless of their long-standing disputes. This will ultimately lead towards new horizon of changing scenarios within South Asian states. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iranian Nuclear agreement with P5+1, Kashmir issue with India, revival of the old silk route and Afghan peace process will reshape the regional paradigm in Pakistan’s foreign policy. During Cold war era,US-Russian relations were always based on aggressive posture. They both were ready for every single competition in international arena. US will prefer China as a counter-weight against Russian designs.  This will create favorable conditions for China and Pakistan.

Conclusion

After touching all the dimensions of Pakistan China relationship, one thing that comes to mind is that; its high time for Pakistan to be more focused one Self-reliance policies ratherthan focusing on assistance of China and other international players. China being an immediate neighbor is historic and all seasoned friend but we must establish our potential and increase our international outlook. This will prove to be Pakistan’s less dependency on China and other international players. Economically speaking, Pakistan must settle down its economic issues so that it can enhance its economy smoothly. Resultantly, it will be less dictated in the matters of Political and Economic issues of the foreign policy of Pakistan. Pakistan must keep amicable relations with its neighboring countries especially with India which is historic rival to avoid further notorious actions via Afghanistan and Baluch separatist movement. The four wars never came with any results for both India and Pakistan. The solution of Kashmir issue and other major issues must be settled without using force or inviting other players to deteriorate the relationship. It is our mutual issue and we have to settle it with win-win goals. We need to compromise our designs and ambitions so that South Asian region can be made more peaceful. Pakistan must learn lessons from history of China as she could not get its parts as Hong Kong, Macao form Britain until it became politically strong and economically sound player. Summing up, China and Pakistan are great nations and close neighbors bound by common destiny and goals. No matters how scenarios are changing, both of the countries have to overcome all challenges and carry forward the traditional friendship more deeply. The Chinese-Pakistani government must strengthen people to people contact for further strengthening Sino-Pak partnership for building a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

*Ahmed Bux Jamali holds a Masters in International Relations from Jilin University China Presently, he is serving as Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies Islamabad. He is available at ab_ir92[at]yahoo.com

Author is pursuing MPhil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad. Her area of research focuses on International Security, Strategic issues and Public Diplomacy.

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South Asia

China- Pakistan: Centaur of Friendship

Sabah Aslam

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China has been always quotes as an all-weather ally to Pakistan. This mark is not been achieved in a day. Pakistan and China have always been close companions to each other whether its diplomatic or economic fronts. The “deeper than oceans” bond was initiated in 1951 when Pakistan was on the list of first countries who had recognized People’s Republic of China after it officially ended its ties with Taiwan, officially known as Republic of China. Ever since the two countries have actually proven themselves to be iron brothers. Whether it is socio-economic sphere or any issue of national, regional or global importance, the two have stood by each other through thick and thin.

This bond was further strengthened after Beijing launched its Belt and Road Initiative with China Pakistan Economic Corridor as its flagship project. CPEC had been no less than a soothing drug to the maltreated economy of Pakistan. China provided Pakistan with the much needed co-operation specifically in the areas of power generation and infrastructural development. Whereas Pakistan provided China with an alternative route for its trade across the globe that was shorter and beneficial from all aspects.

However, this resolve to cooperate is not limited to bilateral level. China has always supported Pakistan on issues of regional and global importance. This was even acknowledged by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on BRF this year too. He said, “I want to thank China and its leadership for their unwavering support for Pakistan.”

During the recent scenario where India unilaterally scraped article 370 and had illegitimately taken Kashmir under Delhi’s control directly, it was China who rendered its full support to Pakistan’s stance. According to a report of China Daily, China strongly opposes the Indian act of inclusion of Kashmir. China has also urged India to act in accordance with the bilateral ties with Pakistan and with China on the issues of administrative jurisdiction. 

Nevertheless China had also assisted Pakistan in internationalizing the issue of Kashmir, rebuking India that it is not an “internal matter”. China had backed Pakistan’s request for holding a UN Security Council’s meeting to resolve the matter.  The South China Morning Post, called Kashmir “a flashpoint in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors”.

Considering the volatile situation, UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday, August 16, 2019 with Kashmir Issue as the only agenda point. The meeting was called specifically for Kashmir for the first time after 1965. Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun later spoke to media and once again urged the two-parties to refrain from taking any unilateral action that can aggravate the situation and take measures to solve the issue in lines with the UN resolutions.

In 2018, Donald Trump had tweeted threateningly where he accused Pakistan of “nothing but lies and deceit” and fooling US leaders. Trump also announced that he would not provide any further aid to Pakistan. China once again came out to stand for its strategic partner. China urged the global community that the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s “outstanding contribution” as it has made huge efforts and sacrifices to fight terrorism.

Previously, China had defended Pakistan despite the rage, which the decision had received. In March this year, India had requested UNSC to brand Masood Azhar, the leader of an organization already banned by Pakistan, as a global terrorist. The move was vetoed by China, China’s Foreign Minister said that they need more time and decided to put a technical hold. 

China had also stood by Pakistan when back in 2015 it supported Pakistan’s engagement with Nuclear Suppliers Group and expressed hopes for Pakistan’s attainment of membership. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had replied to a reporter regarding Pakistan’s aspirations for NSG saying China wished to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan.

Despite the fact that in international relations there are not permanent friends but the bond which Beijing and Islamabad shares has turned the caps. This bond without any doubt is based primarily on mutual benefit and respect but there is more to it too. China supports Pakistan and had supported Pakistan even in times of despair. It took decades long cultural, diplomatic and economic understanding to carve this centaur of friendship between both nations. Islamabad needs to enhance its diplomatic understanding with Beijing as recent diplomatic bustle over Kashmir clearly showed the allies.

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South Asia

Kashmir Once Again Playing out as Diplomatic Theatre at the United Nations

M Waqas Jan

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Friday’s closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Jammu and Kashmir marked the first time in over 50 years since the issue was discussed at the world’s foremost diplomatic forum. This issue which has long remained at the center of India Pakistan tensions recently received fresh impetus following India’s unilateral decision to withdraw the special status awarded to the region. This was followed by a widespread clampdown in the form of an indefinite curfew as well as a media and communications blackout that is currently in its second week.

Consequently, the above mentioned UNSC meeting on Kashmir forms a key component of Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive following India’s actions. As such, it represents a highly interesting case of diplomatic theatre where the anticipation of possibly resolving or bringing about at least some semblance of positivity to a long-festering conflict has generated considerable interest the world over. This includes interest from both the international media as well as several observers and diplomats as a possible precedent for a consensus driven approach to conflict resolution in general.

However, the lack of any meaningful outcome or even a joint statement directly arising out of this meeting has led to an almost perverse battle of sorts over optics and narrative between key stakeholders, which aims to leverage the UN’s significance as a platform for international consensus. Especially with a view towards placating an international audience’s expectations of what is just or right, the absence of a joint statement following this meeting has led to a vacuum that has resulted in even greater discord regarding this issue. Thus, instead of a collective decision or stance taken on the issue by the UNSCC, what was instead witnessed was China and Pakistan presenting their cases for international mediation at one end, and India insisting on the issue remaining an internal matter at the other.  This for instance was clear in the press statements given by each of these countries’ representatives following the end of the UNSC meeting.

Against a backdrop of the UN Security Council and speaking in a microphone carrying the white on blue letters of the ‘UN’, Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun was the first to state that all the UNSC members were gravely concerned at the human rights situation in Kashmir and that there was general agreement that all parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might aggravate the situation further. He went on to state that as per China’s stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the status of Kashmir was still undecided and that it should be resolved via peaceful means in accordance with the UN charter, the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions as well as the bilateral resolutions pertaining to it.

Pakistan’s representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi whose remarks closely followed the Chinese Ambassador thanked China for lending assistance in her country’s request for calling the UNSC meeting. She pointed out that the fact that the meeting was held was itself a major diplomatic victory and that the voice of the Kashmiri people, despite all attempts to silence it was heard at the world’s highest diplomatic forum. She stated that this meeting was the first step taken as part of a protracted and drawn out struggle for justice for the Kashmiri people which Pakistan remained fully and vociferously committed to.

Considering how both the Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors while speaking in quick succession nearly echoed each other’s policy stances on this issue, it was as if they might as well have written each other’s statements themselves. Many observers in the media had later pointed out that the statement given by the Chinese ambassador was in fact a version of a potential joint statement that was to be ideally given by the president of the UNSC. However, since other P5 members had raised reservations regarding its wording and assumptions of the UN’s role in mediating the conflict, it was presented instead by Ambassador Jung as China’s position on the matter, to which Ambassador Lodhi had voiced her approval. 

Both their stances however stood poles apart from the statement given by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Mr. Syed Akbaruddin. Given after a brief interlude to the previous two statements, Mr. Akbaruddin explained how following China and Pakistan’s statements he was self-admittedly compelled to present his own country’s stance on the matter. The gist of it was that India’s move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status was wholly an internal matter. That it remained committed to resolving its issues with other countries bilaterally and that it was saddened by Pakistan’s approach of using violent jihad and terrorism as a precursor to any potential negotiations. In a characteristic show of one-upmanship that has remained a hallmark of India and Pakistan’s interactions at the UN, Mr. Akbaruddin also made a flamboyant point of taking questions from Pakistani journalists with whom he at one point even came forward and shook hands with as a gesture of his country’s willingness to engage with Pakistan. All while repeating India’s decade old stance that Pakistan stop terror in order to initiate talks.

Yet, considering the stage, setting and timing of the situation at hand, what the audience of journalists was in the end left with was a shrewd and knowing diplomat presenting a clear denial of the spirit of the UN. While employing his best smoke and mirrors it was evident that the press conference was being used by Mr. Akbaruddin as an opportunity to distract, disguise and deflect international opinion from the issue at hand. In essence, it presented another example of one of the many slick PR driven spectacles that are passed on for diplomacy at the UN these days. Yet, considering the lack of unity from the UNSC, and China and Pakistan having already attempted to leverage the stage and setting, can one really blame him?

For an organization that once embodied upholding the ideals of peace, justice and equality as its very raison d’être, it is extremely disappointing to see the UN’s own inaction and passivity reducing it to being nothing more than mere spectacle. Especially during a time where the world is increasingly plagued by strife and discord, seeing Kashmir being reduced to just another metaphor for such issues speaks volumes of the lack of direction and principles guiding global leadership in our world today.

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Abrogation of Article 370 and Indian Plan for Plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir

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Since 2014 India is being ruled by a Hindu ultra-nationalist party of Bhartiya Jannta Party (BJP) and extremist Narendra Modi has transformed the political and social fabric of the country. The minority groups especially the Muslims and low caste Hindus (Dalits) are victims of Hindutva terrorism. Armed mobs charged with Hindu nationalism frequently attacked on minority groups and batten them to death. The BJP once again secured the sweeping victory in Indian national election of 2019 with a promise to revoke the Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The Article 370 came into effect in 1949 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir for making laws to govern the entity except foreign relations, defense, finance, and communications.

Yet, before taking into consideration the implications of revoking of Article 370 and 35A, it is important to trace the genesis of Kashmir dispute and its special status. The World War II brought an end to Western imperialism around the globe and an era of modern sovereign statehood began. Consequently, Pakistan and India emerged as sovereign states on 14th and 15th August 1947. The partition plan was devised by Lord Louis Mountbatten on 3rd June 1947 dividing Indian subcontinent into two separate sovereign states and giving special right to peripheral autonomous princely states to join either India or Pakistan. The annexation plan was followed by the rule of religious, linguistic, geographic and cultural proximity. The Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim majority state having geostrategic importance for India and Pakistan. Being a Muslim majority state having close geographic, cultural, religious and economic affinity, it was considered to become part of Pakistan, but Maharaja Harri Singh, a Hindu ruler acceded the territory with New Delhi without paying due attention to wishes of indigenous peoples. The decision was rejected by the local masses and a movement was started for independence and annexation with Pakistan. When the Maharaja used brutal force against liberation forces asking help from New Delhi after signing the Instrument of Accession, Pakistan became the party of this dispute and first Indo-Pak war broke out.

Consequently, the seeds of perpetual enmity sowed in South Asia over the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir, which is still a nuclear threshold putting billions of lives in danger. After losing grounds in Jammu & Kashmir, India brought the issue into the United Nations Security Council for reconciliation, and with the help of UN a cease fire agreement was enforced between two states on 1st January 1949. The UNSC resolution of 21st April 1948, one of the Principal UN resolutions on Kashmir stated that “both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. The resolutions of UN affirms that India and Pakistan has accepted the UN role as a mediator and agreed to resolve it through the wishes of peoples of Jammu & Kashmir.  Since then, Pakistan has frequently reiterated its commitment for a free and impartial plebiscite, but India always rejected the notion by claiming Kashmir an integral part of Indian Union.

The article 370 was the basis of Jammu & Kashmir accession to Indian Union which explicitly noted that New Delhi has accepted the provisional accession of Jammu & Kashmir, while the final decision would be taken after a democratic rule of impartial plebiscite. The article came into effect in 1949, exempts Kashmir from Indian Constitution. It allows the Indian-administered region jurisdiction to make its own laws in all matters except finance, defense, foreign affairs and communications. It also established a separate constitution and a separate flag and denied property rights in the region to the outsiders.

Now the BJP under ultra nationalist Narendra Modi has made a controversial move and abolished the special status of Jammu & Kashmir through revoking the Article 370. The presidential decree has sparked the widespread anxiety in the state and local inhabitants are of view that Narendra Modi wants to fully integrate the state with Indian Union. The peoples of Jammu & Kashmir bluntly rejected the Indian decision and asked international community to intervene. Pakistan, being a party of dispute has also expressed the grave concerns over Indian act and initiated various measures to reverse the Indian decision. The Prime Minister of AJ&K government and Pakistan stated that we do not accept the unilateral decision taken by government of India and stand by the Peoples of Indian occupied Kashmir.

There are two possible scenarios after abrogation of Article 370. First, to reverse the Indian decision and to save Kashmiri’s.

This objective can be achieved with an effective diplomatic efforts. It is primary responsibility of Pakistan and international community to intervene in the matter and put pressure on India to reverse its decision. The international community need to realize that Kashmir is a disputed territory and a unilateral action of India has changed the status quo, which is largely rejected by the Kashmiri masses. United Nations, being an international body to maintain international peace and security must play its role in this critical time and save Kashmiri’s from persecution. It is indeed a much success that UNSC has discussed the issue in its meeting on 16th August, but it is also alarming that it refused to deliver a joint statement. It is high time for Pakistani diplomacy to convince the P5 members of UNSC (China, Russia, United States, France and UK) about the gravity of Kashmir issue and threat of nuclear war. These members have power to put pressure on India to reverse the decision, otherwise a chance of nuclear war cannot be ruled out in South Asia.

Second scenario is the UN plebiscite in Kashmir after successful demographic transformation in Jammu & Kashmir.

The abrogation of Article 370 exposed that India has made its mind to hold the long awaited plebiscite in the state after ensuring feasible conditions. The presidential order has enabled Indian parliament to make laws for Kashmir and opened the doors for non-state residents to settle and purchase land in Kashmir. The decision is a blue print of Indian government’s plan of large scale demographic change and ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Under the Hindutva doctrine, the Indian government has launched the operation of ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Muslims, which ultimately transform them into minority group. Meanwhile, the BJP government will construct special enclaves for Hindu extremists and help them to settle in the state. The Indian troops will kill thousands of Kashmiri Muslims in the name of law and order maintenance and major leaders of Muslim community will also be target of Indian brutality.

Kashmir is a territorial dispute between Pakistan and India. Pakistan time and again reiterates for free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices. Now the Indian government under Prime Minister Modi is also preparing grounds for plebiscite. The abrogation of Article 370 is a one step forward. Once, India settled the winnable majority of Hindus in Kashmir, then it will request the UN to arrange a plebiscite for a permanent solution. Therefore, the Hindu majority voters in the UN plebiscite will provide a legal cover to Indian illegal occupation of Kashmir. Ultimately, India will legalize it occupation and the matter will be solved once for all and there will be no international intervention in the internal matters of India.

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