SEP 19, 2018: Military ties between China and Pakistan are the “backbone” of relations between the two countries, a senior Chinese general told visiting army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Gen. Bajwa is on his first visit to ally China since the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August, and comes a week or so after a senior Chinese diplomat visited Islamabad.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with top leadership of the country: President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, the Army Chief and his counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Pakistan has deepened ties with China (and Russia) in recent years as relations with the United States have frayed, specially after Trump announced last year his South Asia Strategy looping India in it to resolve the Afghanistan imbroglio.
Bajwa’s visit to Beijing weeks after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and a four-member delegation visited Islamabad to reset the button on US-Pakistan relations is significant, several observers noted.
The Army Chief’s three-day visit also comes a week after Advisor to the Prime Minister for commerce, Mr. Abdul Razak Dawood, suggested suspending for a year projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), according to The Financial Times, Reuters reports.
CPEC is the Pakistan leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that includes recreating the old Silk Road trading route, according to Reuters.
Dawood said parts of his interview to The Financial Times on CPEC were taken out of context. Beijing and Islamabad denied the report that claimed Pakistan is reviewing CPEC, and reaffirmed their stance of strengthening the strategic partnership.
On Tuesday, Zhang Youxia, a deputy chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission which President Xi Jinping heads, reiterated to the Army Chief that the two countries are “all weather” strategic cooperative partners.
“China-Pakistan military ties are an important backbone of relations between the two countries,” said Zhang according to a statement by China’s Defense Ministry late on Tuesday.
“The two militaries should further pay close attention to practical cooperation in all areas, keep raising the ability to deal with various security risks and challenges, and join hands to protect the common interests of both countries.”
However, Zhang cited Xi as saying that the Belt and Road initiative should be a benchmark for China-Pakistan ties.
He said China appreciated the new Pakistan government’s platform of fully promoting the relationship and that China was willing to work with the new government to push construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The generals also discussed areas of further bilateral military cooperation in the field of counter terrorism, arms and equipment technology, and training.
Beijing has pledged to invest about $62 billion in Pakistan for power and infrastructure for the Belt and Road project that will provide China the shortest access to warm waters of the Arabian Sea for trade with the Middle East, Africa and beyond. Pakistan is expected to earn billions over the years hosting the CPEC and its downstream projects.
The new Pakistani government led by Imran Khan has said CPEC is a national priority. “There is complete unanimity between the two sides on the future direction of CPEC,” an official statement said last week.