FM’s China visit

Published August 23, 2020

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s visit to China was a timely reaffirmation of Islamabad-Beijing ties. Kashmir was certain to figure prominently in Mr Qureshi’s talk with his Chinese counterpart, Mr Wang Yi, and it did, along with other issues such as CPEC. Not least important on the agenda was the scheduled visit of President Xi Jinping to Islamabad next month.

Another highlight of the communiqué released after talks on Friday was the pledge by the two countries to continue to work together on the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus. The timing of this renewal of a joint pledge was significant.

The meeting of the long-time allies came against the backdrop of major international events, including the mid-June border skirmish between China and India, the most serious incident of its kind in the last 50 years of a tense relationship. The clash had raised the spectre of diplomats from various countries entering the scene and playing a power game with cold, calculated realignment being the ultimate buzzword.

Ever since, the experts have indulged in ‘creating’ likely and unlikely alliances out of actors who are driven by ‘new realities’. They have flaunted all kinds of scenarios and have predicted new blocs on the international stage.

Newer elements have been introduced but perhaps the most prominent of the trajectories discussed in the circumstances is the one that projects India forging even closer ties with the US in the near future. Pakistan has been quite keen to remind Washington about how important it is that the balance the US administration aspires to in its South Asian policy — at least in words — must actually be reflected in how it is seen to deal with the most crucial causes in the region, namely Afghanistan, CPEC and Kashmir.

Islamabad is also following a strategy where it is striving to strengthen its ties with the dependable Chinese capital as well as exploring new reliable partners for joint ventures in the international community. The Pakistan-China relationship is a central pillar on which this policy is based. Be it New Delhi’s excesses in besieged India-held Kashmir, or the matter of asserting Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, or, of course, the CPEC project, it has always been in the common interest of Beijing and Islamabad to cooperate with each other. Recent international events could, in fact, have brought the two neighbours even closer.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2020

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