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Bilawal heads to China on two-day visit

Mariana Baabar
Saturday, May 21, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will reach China on his first bilateral visit after taking office on the special invitation of State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China, on May 21-22.

"The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms Hina Rabbani Khan, and senior officials will be part of the foreign minister’s delegation,” the Foreign Office announced. Pakistan sees the foreign minister’s visit contributing towards further fortifying the time-tested all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China, enhancing and deepening CPEC-related engagement, and help in identifying new avenues for bilateral cooperation to the benefit of the two countries and peoples.

The foreign minister earlier in his virtual meeting with Wang Yi briefed him on the gross human rights violations and serious situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK). It is expected that this issue would come up again during the Chinese visit.

The foreign minister’s visit is part of the high-level exchanges between the two sides, which recently also included message of felicitations to Prime Minister from Premier Li Keqiang and a telephonic conversation between the two premiers on May 16. During the visit, the FM will hold extensive consultations with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“The two leaders will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations with a particular focus on stronger trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China. Fast-tracked progress on the transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative, will also feature in the discussions. The two sides will also have a wide-ranging exchange of views on major regional and international issues,” added the FO.

The two FMs had previously held a virtual meeting on May 11, 2022, in which Bilawal had vowed to take the Pakistan-China friendly ties to new heights. Speaking at the virtual meeting with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Bilawal underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum into the Pakistan-China bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation.

During the meeting, Wang Yi extended felicitations to the foreign minister on the assumption of the office. Bilawal conveyed that Pakistan enjoyed unique and time-tested bonds with China and appreciated the measures taken by the two sides to strengthen the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. The foreign minister appreciated the transformational impact of CPEC on Pakistan’s infrastructure, energy, industrialisation, socio-economic development and improvement in the livelihoods of the people.

The two foreign ministers also discussed the evolving situation in the region and beyond, in particular the dire humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan. As the Chinese after the Karachi University attack demand more security for their citizens as well as apprehending the perpetrators, Bilawal would during the visit once again reiterate that Pakistan attached high importance to the safety and security of Chinese projects, nationals and institutions in Pakistan. Earlier, during the weekly media briefing, the issue of Chinese citizens leaving Pakistan after the horrendous attack was raised with the spokesperson saying that this perception was not correct.

“And perhaps some of it is being created because there were news reports about the closure of Confucius Institutes in Pakistan and return of Chinese staff. However, this matter has been adequately clarified by the Chinese Embassy already. I want to add and clarify this matter further that all Confucius Institutes in Pakistan remain operational. Online and physical classes are being held by both Chinese and Pakistani teachers,” he clarified.

He pointed out that some Chinese teachers have indeed returned to China for their summer vacation. “In view of the disruption of normal flight operations between Pakistan and China due to Covid prevention measures in China, the Confucius Institute teachers availed a chartered flight which was bringing Chinese officials to Pakistan. The teachers would return to Pakistan after their vacation in China,” said the spokesperson.

Despite the heinous terrorist attack in the Karachi University on April 26, Pakistan and China are committed to continuing their normal exchanges, including educational and cultural exchanges, and are determined not to allow anyone to disrupt the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two countries, added the spokesperson.

To a question as what further steps Pakistan was taking for protection of Chinese citizens, he responded: "We are taking steps that we need to take internally at the national and provincial levels to continue to enhance the security arrangements for Chinese nationals and companies. There is a clear, continuing and strong commitment from the leadership that the Chinese nationals and companies working in Pakistan, specifically on CPEC projects, and in the context of protection of CPEC itself, is very important and we are taking all necessary steps to provide foolproof security to them," he said.

Also Pakistan remains in touch with its Chinese friends on any possible moves that we may need to take to the other fora to advance its shared objectives with regard to countering terrorism and protecting CPEC and related personnel and infrastructure.

“There is continuing discussion with the Chinese side. One thing is clear -- both sides are cognizant of the threats, and ill-designs of some, but we are confident that we will together take steps to effectively deal with the challenge and to take forward the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership,” said the spokesperson.

When asked about the talks between the government and TTP in Afghanistan in which Afghan media reports said the corps commander Peshawar was also participating, the spokesperson refrained from giving details. “On this I can state that our resolve to fight terrorism remains unwavering. We shall pursue all avenues for defeating the scourge of terrorism and ensuring the attainment of peace and stability in the region and in our country. We will let you know as and when there is any update,” was the comment of the spokesperson.

Commenting on the conviction of Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik, the spokesperson said it is highly reprehensible that he has been convicted in a manifestly dubious and motivated case dating back to 2017. “We have stated our position very clearly and we have been saying this for a long time that this is India’s deliberate policy of depriving the Kashmiri people of their legitimate and true representatives. They have been trying to do this by various means, by illegal actions, extrajudicial killings, detentions and arrests, fake cases and bogus trials under the ambit of black laws and a compromised judicial system, and as you mentioned judicial murder but rest assured that we will agitate this matter forcefully at all fora and take all possible actions to prevent this,” he emphasised.

Turning to cricket, the spokesperson was asked about the Kashmir Premier League’s invitation to Indian cricket legend Virat Lodi to visit Pakistan to play here. “I have no information about the matter and I cannot comment, particularly on behalf of any Indian authorities who might have to give approval to any such invitation. But what I can say is that Virat Kohli is a famous cricketer, he has a lot of fans in Pakistan so if he could come to play it will be good,” he said.