Crucial China Trip
The foreign policy overture tour continues for Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as the foreign office attempts to make amends for the missteps made in recent times, especially when it comes to key international actors. Following his visit to the US, the Foreign Minister is undertaking his maiden trip to China.
Though the FM has made visits to the US and Saudi Arabia since assuming office, those trips were not bilateral in nature, and this time around, the minister of state for foreign affairs and senior ministry officials will be part of the foreign minister’s delegation. This appears to be part of a renewed push by the coalition government to enhance cooperation with Beijing, which is crucial especially in light of the ongoing economic crisis.
The agenda is expected to cover the entire gamut of bilateral relations, with a particular focus on deepening trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. It is important for us to also discuss the fast-tracking of CPEC projects, which were stalled under the previous government. Given our energy challenges, the operationalisation of these neglected projects must be undertaken urgently.
The security of these projects and of Chinese nationals residing and working in the country could also come under discussion. In recent times, there have been multiple attacks, some of which also tragically claimed the lives of Chinese nationals. A trend has emerged and our security agencies must be extremely vigilant going forward. Beijing too has asked to tighten up security so we may have to give them further assurances on this matter during the trip.
Reports also suggest that the coalition government is looking in Beijing’s direction for support in view of the grave economic challenges facing the country. Before that can happen however, China and other partners of Pakistan want the new government to resume the IMF programme. All in all, this is an extremely important trip considering how China is among our most reliable allies and it is good to see the foreign office team work in overdrive to shore up the country’s key alliances.