P.M. Imran Khan’s Successful Strategic Visit to China
By Sajjad Shaukat
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited China at a crucial time when epoch making changes and power shift is taking place in the region and beyond. P.M. Imran visited at the invitation of H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of China from October 8-9, 2019. By all standards, the visit was a resounding success in strategic terms.
Premier Imran Khan met Xi Jinping, President of China, Premier Li Keqiang and Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. He also met Chinese entrepreneurs and businessmen.
Meetings were marked by traditional warmth, mutual understanding and strategic trust. Prime Minister Imran also attended the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing Horticulture Expo 2019 as a chief guest. He congratulated the Chinese leadership and people on the 70th Anniversary of founding of the People’s Republic of China. He stated that the steady march of the Chinese nation under its visionary leadership towards national rejuvenation was becoming a reality.
Both sides found common grounds on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Recalling the joint statement of November 4, 2018, the two sides reaffirmed their firm resolve to further strengthening Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership aimed at building a community of shared future in the new era. Addressing the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, which contributed to peace, stability and development in the region, the two sides reaffirmed their support on issues concerning each other’s core interests. Chinese leaders reiterated solidarity with Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty, independence and security.
However, presence of Pakistan’s politico-military leaders and their meetings with their Chinese counterparts have conveyed a string message to the region and international community that both countries will stand shoulder to shoulder, irrespective of time.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has got a big boost and its next phase is being launched under supervision of a unified authority. Beijing’s desire to make it as a model project of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is heartening.
Nevertheless, the joint press release said that Pakistan “supports One Chnia Policy” and reiterated that “affairs of Hong Kong are China’s internal matter and all countries should uphold international law and basic norms of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries”.
The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in the Indian Held Kashmir. The Chinese side responded that it was “paying close attention” to the current situation in the occupied Kashmir” and acknowledged that “the issue is a dispute left from history, and should be peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter…relevant UN Security Council resolutions”. The two sides underlined that “a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia is in the common interest of all parties”.
Both sides maintained in the joint statement that the second phase of the CPEC will promote industrial and socio-economic development in Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation highlighted that the Gwadar Port has been granted various facilities enabling it to become a trade and logistical hub for the region. The two sides expressed determination to speedily “execute CPEC so that its growth potential can be fully realised making it a high-quality demonstration project for the Belt and Road Initiative”.
The two sides held in-depth exchange of views on deepening bilateral cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, finance, defence and security, education, agriculture, social sector, people-to-people contacts and cultural linkages. They agreed that early implementation of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement would contribute to an increase in bilateral trade.
In this regard, during the visit of P.M. Imran and Chinese Premier Li witnessed the signing of various agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs).
Reaffirming that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the two sides agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for regional security and expressed satisfaction at the outcomes of the third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue held in Islamabad on September 7, 2019. The Chinese leadership appreciated Islamabad’s efforts for peace in the region and especially her central role in promoting peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
In this respect, the joint press release said that both sides maintained “an inclusive, and Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process would be key to bring peace and stability in the country.”
China and Pakistan also reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, with China calling on the international community to “objectively recognise Pakistan’s contributions to regional peace and security through its success in [the] fight against terrorism”.
Prime Minister Imran thanked the leadership and people of China for their hospitality, and invited the Chinese leadership to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient time.
Some US-led foreign entities had been creating misunderstanding about the CPEC project. Hence, Islamabad has removed all the misgivings raised about CPEC by vested interests in and outside Pakistan.
Notably, India was openly opposing the CPEC; the US also joined New Delhi. In this context, on October 3, 2017, the then US Defence Secretary James Mattis told the Lawmakers, “The United States has reiterated its support for India’s opposition to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative…the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a part of which traverses Pakistan-Kashmir.”
Pakistan strongly rejected the statement from the American defence chief that the multibillion-dollar road and rail network CPEC will pass through a disputed territory of Kashmir, urging the international community to focus on blatant human rights violations and ‘heinous crimes’ committed by Indian occupation forces in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and reminded America that Washington had also participated in an OBOR summit.
Earlier, a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry also dismissed Mattis’ statement, saying that the OBOR plan was backed by the United Nations and that CPEC was an economic cooperation initiative. Russia also supports the OBOR and CPEC.
Nonetheless, Pakistan’s sources stated that CPEC’s next major phase of expansion and consolidation will be launched in coming weeks, bringing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and making Pakistan a magnet for foreign investment.
While, in a press briefing regarding the trip of Premier Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa to China in wake of the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, Director General of Pakistan Army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafoor stated on October 11, this year: “President Xi Jinping has assured that his country will not remain silent if Pakistan needs it…Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the Chinese President to inform Modi that curfew should be removed immediately from occupied Kashmir…the visit of Pakistani leadership was important in the current scenario, while China has assured Pakistan its cooperation in Financial Action Task Force…civil and military leadership in Pakistan is working together.”
Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafor elaborated that the visit to China was based on a 3-point agenda; “No.1 occupied Kashmir, No. 2, CPEC and No.3 Pak-China defense cooperation.”
It is mentionable that during the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to work together against radicalization in an informal meeting with the former on October 11, this year.
Nonetheless, it was only formality, shown in the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping Indian Prime Minister Modi, as in fact, Beijing supports Islamabad’s peaceful diplomacy in the region instead of extremist policy and New Delhi’s war-mongering diplomacy. Beijing is also opposed to India’s Kashmir move of August 5, 2019, which abrogated the special status of Kashmir and its decision to carve the Ladakh region out of Jammu and Kashmir State and administer it federally—China and India have a border dispute on Ladakh.
We can conclude that P.M. Imran Khan’s successful visit to China along with General Qamar Javed Bajwa has strategic importance.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations