PM’s China visit

October 11, 2019

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THE high-level visit to China by the top political and military leadership of Pakistan has yielded some positive movement in this country’s attempts to draw international attention to the atrocities being perpetrated by New Delhi in India-held Kashmir. The joint statement released at the conclusion of the visit mentioned the Kashmir dispute as well as the UN resolutions, which is an advance on previous such statements. There is room for Beijing to build on this, since there is an overlap in the concerns of Pakistan and China regarding the arbitrary change of status of IHK that is internationally recognised as part of a disputed territory. In fact, the statement leaves the door open for further diplomatic action as it says that “China is paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir and [the Chinese side] reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”. China, the statement says, is opposed to “any unilateral actions that complicate the situation”. Hopefully, Beijing will highlight the same concerns at the summit in Mammallapuram between China and India that begins today, and call for the matter to be resolved either within or with the assistance of the United Nations.

Pakistan renewed its commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at the meetings, and presented the promulgation of an ordinance creating the CPEC Authority as a sign of its intention to fast-track the building of the corridor. The second phase of CPEC, which envisages the inflow of vast Chinese investments from the private sector into Pakistan, has been stuck for almost two years now. Progress is also at a standstill on an agreement on financing arrangements for the main railway upgradation project known as ML-1, the multibillion-dollar project that is supposed to upgrade the main line of the railway system from Peshawar to Karachi, enabling the high-speed movement of passengers and cargo. There was also an agreement between both sides to move ahead with the second free trade agreement. So it seems that the overall framework of China-Pakistan cooperation in the 21st century, which includes the corridor, the FTA and security cooperation has received a boost from the meeting, and one hopes that the government here seizes the opportunity.

The statement shows that the government may well have renewed Pakistan’s commitment to this overall framework, but does not seem to have brought any new elements of its own to the table. If all this is agreed on, one is left wondering why there has been so little progress in the past one year, given that these same elements have been emphasised in the statement released after the December Joint Cooperation Committee meeting in Beijing. If the government is serious, we should now see material progress on the ground.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019