Top Chinese diplomat promises to help reinvigorate ties

Published June 30, 2022
Chinese politician Yang Jiechi meets Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday. — INP
Chinese politician Yang Jiechi meets Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday. — INP
Chinese politician Yang Jiechi (L) meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa (R) at the General Headquarters on Wednesday. — INP
Chinese politician Yang Jiechi (L) meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa (R) at the General Headquarters on Wednesday. — INP

ISLAMABAD: High-ranking Chinese politician Yang Jiechi on Wednesday pledged to help in reinvigorating ties with longstanding ally Pakistan as he opened his two-day trip to Islamabad with a meeting with Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

“He assured to play his role for further improvement in diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan at all levels,” the ISPR said after Mr Yang met Gen Bajwa at the General Headquarters.

Mr Yang, who is considered a personal representative of President Xi Jinping because of his position in Chinese hierarchy, is leading a high-level delegation comprising vice ministers for foreign affairs and commerce, vice chairman of China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), and deputy secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on the visit that is taking place at a crucial juncture in bilateral ties.

It was probably in this context that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sent his special assistant and point man on foreign policy Tariq Fatemi to receive him at the airport.

Yang holds talks with Bilawal, army chief

While emphasising the significance of his trip, China experts say Mr Yang is ranked even higher than Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He has in the past represented China in National Security Advisers’ talks with the United States. Therefore, it is said that whatever demands and concerns he conveys and any commitments that he makes during his meetings here will be seen as coming directly from President Xi.

The bilateral relationship currently appears under deep stress because of growing terrorist attacks on Chinese citizens. Beijing is particularly concerned about the lack of progress in the prosecution of the April 26 attack in which three Chinese language teachers were killed in Karachi. It is said that neither the mastermind nor other major actors involved in the attack have been apprehended.

The Chinese had demanded permission for deployment of private Chinese security guards for the protection of Chinese personnel and installations. Though Pakistani authorities did not allow that, the issue remains very much on the table.

The Chinese, moreover, are pushing for Majeed Brigade, the banned Balochistan Liberation Army’s Fidayeen (suicide) unit, to be listed on the UNSC 1267 Terror Sanctions list. The group has been behind most of the attacks on Chinese.

Gen Bajwa, during his visit to China earlier this month, sought to assuage the Chinese concerns by reiterating the army’s commitment to ensuring ‘foolproof security’. His effort helped in showing Pakistani top brass’ seriousness on CPEC security, but Chinese are waiting for words to be matched by deeds.

The ISPR, in its statement on Bajwa-Yang meeting, however, suggested that the Chinese side was satisfied with the renewed commitments. “The visiting dignitary thanked COAS for special measures taken for provision of safe and secure environment for Chinese personnel employed on various projects in Pakistan,” it said.

Secondly, Beijing is upset over the issue of more than Rs300 billion receivables of the Chinese companies operating in Pakistan.

Mr Yang also met Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

“The two sides discussed entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest,” the FO said in a statement.

During the visit, Mr Yang will also call on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2022

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