ISLAMABAD: During his Oct 8-9 visit to China, Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing to discuss the security situation in the disputed region of Kashmir as well as economic ties, his office said on Monday.
“The visit will be instrumental in further cementing Pakistan’s economic, investment and strategic ties with China,” said a PM office statement.
“The Prime Minister will exchange views [...] the state of peace and security in South Asia arising from the situation in occupied Jammu & Kashmir.”
Tensions over Kashmir have risen drastically since Aug 5 when New Delhi revoked the autonomy of India-held Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade soon afterwards while Mr Khan launched an international diplomacy campaign to draw condemnation of India’s treatment of Kashmiris. China, which also holds a thinly populated high-altitude area of Kashmir and has a longstanding dispute over the border with India, called New Delhi’s actions “unacceptable”.
Army chief to join PM for meeting with Chinese PM, president
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of Pakistan military, Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa reached China on an official visit.“COAS will meet Chinese mil leadership including PLA Army Commander, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission & Commander Southern Theater Command. COAS will also join PM for meeting with Chinese PM and President,” the ISPR said.
Mr Khan’s visit will include talks on the progress of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the $60 billion infrastructure programme China launched as part of its flagship “Belt and Road” project.
Some officials and observers have said momentum on CPEC projects is slowing, in part due to concerns over the size of Pakistan’s debt and struggling economy, which led Islamabad to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package in July.
However, federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtyar at a news conference on Sunday denied there had been any slowdown in CPEC projects. “(There’s) a narrative being built up that they have become slow; I reject it, it’s totally wrong,” he said.
The minister said: “There will be meaningful engagement on all aspects of Pakistan-China relations during the visit”, expressing the hope that it would take CPEC cooperation to new heights so that benefits of Pakistan’s economic progress could reach the people at the earliest. He explained that Prime Minister Imran Khan during his meetings with the president and prime minister of China would take up a number of projects, while technical discussions would follow later this month at the joint working group level and then during the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting in November.
Mr Bakhtyar said the Beijing visit would include talks on the Main Line-1 of Railways from Karachi to Lahore that had been in the cold storage for the past five years, but the government decided to “start formal engagements for negotiations” on the project despite challenges of external debt and current account deficit. However, he parried questions if controversies within the government over $8.5bn pricing review had been settled.
In the first phase, he said, Pakistan was offering to China 7,000MW Bunji hydropower project, which would be followed by other projects on the Indus cascade.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019