Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to the People’s Liberation Army Chief General Han Weiguo on Monday meant a lot of things.

After a Cabinet member sparked a controversy about the future of CPEC, it had become an urgent need for an official to take dire steps to bridge the communication gap with China. Abdul Razzak Dawood’s statement that CPEC projects should be left on hold for a year set of a conundrum of sorts, with some seeing it as an aggressive move by Pakistan. It can be inferred that China also saw it as something to be addressed as the Chinese embassy issued a strong statement the next day emphasising that CPEC was mutually beneficial. The notification of the Chinese embassy was an indication that Dawood’s statement, which was undoubtedly a mistake, warranted immediate action to rectify any offence taken by China, and the COAS’s visit was that action.

This public visit and support to China on CPEC holds even more symbolic meaning when one considers the USA’s opposition to CPEC, and its role in playing up this controversy. The fact that those comments were published in the Financial Times, and overplayed any hostility between China and Pakistan, is no coincidence. With times being such that Pakistan will have increasing cooperation with the US over the Afghanistan issue, there was a need to give a message to China that Pakistan still supports CPEC.

China has been our closest ally, and we should treat it with the diplomatic conduct that befits an ally. It is expected that there will be disagreements within CPEC, but those should be kept to the negotiating table, not made public in an international arena which is so hostile to the idea of OBOR. Hopefully the COAS’s visit has cleared out any misunderstandings between the countries.