Pak-China cooperation multiplies under new govt

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan-China cooperation has multiplied under the new government in Pakistan although it is fighting inflation and economic crises.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is considered an ‘old friend’ of China and his development-centric pragmatism makes him favourable with Beijing.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also has a history of ties with China dating back to his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a former president and the prime minister.

Last week, Prime Minister Shehbaz said Pakistan stood ready to work closely with China for realising the shared vision of connectivity, prosperity and public well-being.

The Prime Minister particularly thanked China for renewal of the RMB15 billion ($2.3 billion) syndicate facility. He also thanked China for its support and assistance to Pakistan’s efforts towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic by providing millions of vaccine doses as well as protective and medical equipment.

Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi’s recent visit to Pakistan reaffirmed all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries after Shehbaz came into office.

Pakistan firmly pursues the One-China principle and supports China in safeguarding its core interests and major concerns. It proves that China-Pakistan ties won’t change along with government reshuffles and strong ties between the two nations bring regional stability and peace in the turbulent era.

Importantly, China backed Pakistan in opposing the proposed G20 meetings in held Kashmir. This came as China hailed the completion of its first major hydropower project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the Jhelum River on the border of Punjab and the western part of Azad Jammu Kashmir.

China lent support to Pakistan’s opposition to India hosting any G20-related meetings in occupied Jammu and Kashmir next year.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “Parties concerned need to avoid unilateral moves that may complicate” the dispute. “The G20 is the premier forum for international economic and financial cooperation. We call on all major economies to focus on steady recovery of the world economy, avoid politicising relevant cooperation and make positive contribution to improving global economic governance,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Asked about China’s opposition to G20 meetings in Kashmir on the one hand and its continuing projects there on the other, Zhao Lijian said, “What you mentioned are two matters completely different in nature. China has undertaken some projects in Pakistan to help it grow its economy and improve people’s livelihood. These projects are in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This does not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue.”

There are indications Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will visit China soon to discuss the Chinese investment and to assure the Chinese leadership that work on CPEC projects would be expedited.

Senior Pakistani diplomats said the Chinese side had trust in the new Pakistani government and investments and cooperation had multiplied.

“The Chinese side was a bit frustrated not long ago due to slow paced work on CPEC projects and security of the Chinese people,” said one diplomat. He said Pakistan had assured to protect the Chinese nationals and in response the investment meetings had gained momentum.

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