ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani left for China on Wednesday in what is seen as a crucial development in the backdrop of changing security dynamics in this region.

An official statement says General Kayani left for Beijing on a five-day official visit at the invitation of Chinese authorities. The event is widely seen in sequel to Pakistan’s initiative for reviewing rules of engagement with the US amid its ongoing row with the Western military alliance just days after Pakistan’s military rejected the findings of a NATO launched probe into Mohmand Agency attack on two military pickets in November last year.

‘During his visit, General Kayani will call on China’s political and military leadership. The interaction will encompass the complete range of Pak-China relations, related to security and defence’, Pakistan Army statement said.

Some important defence pacts consensus on which is likely to be arrived at during the aforesaid visit include Pak-China border security cooperation, proposed anti-drug trafficking measures and joint military exercises.  The Pakistani military, according to official sources, is set to review the anti-human trafficking and narcotics control agreements it had signed with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and were previously overseen under the umbrella of NATO-Russia Council (NRC). The part of these agreements that exclusively concerns Pak-Russia bilateral cooperation on human smuggling and narcotics trade would reportedly stay intact while several key agreements falling under the official ambit of NRC are to be either reviewed or cancelled.

In addition, it is learnt, the Pak-China border security cooperation entails bilateral agreements on joint border patrolling, surveillance and intelligence information exchange to stop the infiltration of illegal immigrants from both sides of the Gilgit-Baltistan-Xinjiang border and bilateral understandings on defence production.

Military cooperation in this regard is reportedly finalised between China‘s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Northern Light Infantry (NLI), an operational regiment of Pakistan Army deputed in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The proposed enhanced cooperation between PLA and NLI is widely perceived as part of Pakistani security establishment’s counter narrative strategy against its hostile relationship with the allies amid the US reported reservations over NLI’s close collaboration with the Chinese Army.

On November 24th last year, just a couple of days before the NATO attack, General Kayani had said that Pak-China friendship was beyond the routine cooperation.  ‘Pak-China relations are not against any country, but share in mutuality a host of combined interests’, Kayani had said this while talking to journalists on the conclusion of two-week long Pak-China joint military exercise YOUYI-2011 at Mangla Cantonment.

His statement was deciphered as a ‘strong message’ conveyed in the wake of dwindling Pak-US strategic relationship even before the Mohmand Agency attack had taken place.

Pakistan disrupted intelligence cooperation with the US and operationalised its full-scale defence system in the aftermath of NATO gunship choppers attack on Volcano and Boulder check posts on November 26th.

The development followed by the evacuation of Shamsi base from the US forces, a hotbed for the US drone strikes in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, stoppage of NATO supplies to Afghanistan via Pakistan and repeated assertions from Pakistan’s political, diplomatic and military commands for reviewing rules of engagement with the US have mounted concerns for Washington that is heavily dependent on Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation in war on terror.    

Pentagon on Monday hoped that Pakistan would resume Afghanistan-bound NATO supplies hoping that the deteriorating ties with Pakistan would improve.  A day later, the NATO command in Afghanistan also hoped the opening of these supplies.  Some days back, Pakistan had rejected the NATO probe into November’s attack while questioning the credibility of the report that was led by Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who, military said, once remained the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan.