After US, the Chinese foreign minister visits Pakistan

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News Analysis |

After a brief visit by the American delegation, the Chinese Foreign minister is set to arrive in Islamabad on Friday, the 7th of September for a three-day visit. He was reportedly invited by the foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. His visit will last from Friday till Sunday. In contrast to the two-hour visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the American Chairman of Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, the length of the visit by the Chinese FM underscores the significance of the Pak-China relationship.

In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, briefly touched upon foreign policy issues. He said,” Pakistan wants friendly relations with all neighboring countries.” On separate occasions, the Pakistani PM, the Foreign Minister and the Information Minister have said the change in government will have no effect on ties with China. The ‘all-weather friendship’ is only going to grow deeper.

The foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, has previously served as the Chinese ambassador to Japan. From 1995 till 1998, he was the Director General of the Department of Asian Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

Although it took some time after Independence in 1947 for relations with China to develop, it’s difficult to find a better example of two countries collaborating on such a wide range of issue. Islamabad was the ‘diplomatic window to the West’ for China, for being the first Islamic country that recognized China. It was Pakistan that broke the ice between the US and China when the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger paid a secret visit to Beijing after a brief stop-over in Pakistan.

At regional and international forums, Pakistan has stood by its most trustworthy ally and has appreciated China’s role in UN peacekeeping missions. Furthermore, Islamabad makes sure the Indian Military’s force potential is not tilted exclusively towards China. When the Chinese Premier Xi Jin Ping visited Pakistan during the previous government’s tenure, he said ‘this is my first visit here but Pakistan is not that unfamiliar to me.’ Former President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain even conferred upon the Chinese President, Pakistan’s highest civil award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan.

Read more: Foreign dignitary visits: PTI Govt’s foreign interaction begins

On the other hand, Beijing has been Pakistan’s most trust-worthy ally even when Islamabad was facing isolation otherwise. While support from other ‘allies’ such as the US has been tenuous at times, China has supported Pakistan militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically. While Washington has been decreasing support to Pakistan for joining in on its war on terror, signified by the recent cancellation of $300 million coalition support fund just before the visit of the American delegation on Wednesday, Islamabad has embraced China to augment its military muscle.

The foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, has previously served as the Chinese ambassador to Japan. From 1995 till 1998, he was the Director General of the Department of Asian Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. He joined the Communist Party of China in May 1981 and is a member of the 19th Communist Party of China’s Central Committee.

The implementation and continuation of the Pak-China Economic Corridor will also likely be on the agenda. The economic condition of Pakistan is also another concern for both allies.

Regarding his visit to Pakistan, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying said, ‘We hope and look forward to this visit, continue the traditional friendship between China and Pakistan, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields, and push China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership to a new height.’

The nature of relations between countries can often be determined by how frequently delegations come and go between them. The first overseas visit by the leader of any country is usually to its closest allies. Previous Pakistani Prime Ministers have, for the most part, kept up the tradition of visiting China first before touring any other country. Imran Khan has vowed not to make foreign trips for the first three months in office in support of austerity; it is likely that when he goes abroad on official business, his first stop would be Beijing.

Read more: Reshaping foreign policy of Pakistan

A three-day visit means more time to discuss issues of common interest. Military to military ties between the two allies is strong. It is possible that Beijing may offer aid to bolster Pakistan’s defense after Washington canceled its support. The implementation and continuation of the Pak-China Economic Corridor will also likely be on the agenda. The economic condition of Pakistan is also another concern for both allies. The success of CPEC depends on a stable economy for Islamabad. Experts have pointed out that Pakistan might have to the IMF again for a bail-out package. It is possible that the three-day visit produces an alternative solution for Pakistan’s economic woes.

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