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September 9, 2018

Sino-Pak agreement to upgrade strategic ties

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September 9, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China reiterated their resolve to take the traditional friendship and all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries to new heights while giving a thrust to key areas of economic, trade and defence.

The two sides agreed to form a joint mechanism for curbing terrorism and poverty, increasing exports, creating jobs and promoting education. They also expressed convergence of opinion that social and economic development would be an important area under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation between the two countries.

Addressing a joint press conference here on Saturday after their delegation-level talks, the Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said ‘being iron brothers’ both countries are supporting each other on various international fora and shared common principles on different international and regional issues. He said enhancing the all-weather strategic partnership with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. 

Qureshi said he also shared with his Chinese counterpart the outcome of his discussions with the US Secretary Mike Pompeo. The minister underlined the importance of defence cooperation with China especially keeping in view Pakistan’s urgent needs in the evolving regional scenario and the cooperation to counter terrorism and collectively to take out terrorists’ threats in the region.

The delegation level talks took place at the Foreign Office where the visiting Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Wang Yi was accompanied by three ministerial level representatives. The "CPEC will remain a priority for the government. It’s a proof of how seamless the Belt and Road initiative can become with the help of all stakeholders. We are proud of Pakistan and China's friendship which has withstood every test," Qureshi reassured his counterpart. The assurance from the PTI government is of significance and important because during the election campaign the PTI had raised questions about CPEC and said they would re-visit it when in government. Also as Pakistan readies to reach out to the IMF, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quite some time back warned Pakistan of using loans from the IMF to pay off loans from China taken for CPEC. However, there is publicly at least no mention of this when Pompeo was in Islamabad recently.

Only the state media was invited at the joint press conference and there was no explanation as to why the independent media was excluded at such an important event, something which has never happened in the past. Sources confided to The News that the Chinese had desired the talks to centre around CPEC, economic growth and development. In a bid to dismiss apprehensions that have risen in Pakistan for the past one year over need for more transparency on CPEC, the Chinese foreign minister clarified that this has not inflicted a “debt burden on Pakistan”. The “CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy,” Wang told the state media. He pointed out that this has helped increase the economic growth by 1-2 percent and has contributed 70,000 jobs in Pakistan.

Earlier, the Foreign Office while commenting on the delegation-level meeting pointed out that Beijing has pledged $57 billion in loans for Pakistan as part of its vast Belt and Road Initiative. China raised the issue of security of its nationals working on CPEC in Pakistan, at which Pakistan held out reassurance.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, told the media that Beijing will support Pakistan in developing its industrial sector as well as increasing exports to China. "China will give a lot of sustenance to encourage imports from Pakistan," Wang said. "We have decided to strive for a greater balance in the two-way trade. China will earmark subsidiaries to encourage imports from Pakistan and will send more coalition teams to Pakistan. We will also broaden the market access to Pakistan's competitive agricultural products," he said. He added the two sides will work to complete negotiations to strengthen the FTA by the end of this year to further enhance the level of trade. "China will support Pakistan in developing the industrial sector," he said, adding the development-oriented cooperation was focused on during the meeting. The Chinese Foreign Minister, said he is visiting the country to renew China's commitment to Pakistan and that China stands firmly by Islamabad as its counterpart. "China and Pakistan are close friends. Our friendship has stood the test of time," he said while stressing the need of enhanced strategic communication between the two sides. "China will help Pakistan for developing a local manufacturing centre," he added.

Wang Yi said China is keen to further increase this cooperation in the agricultural, education and healthcare sectors to benefit the Pakistani people, besides stressing upon enhanced cooperation and interaction in defence and security. He also acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and extended its full support to all its efforts to eliminate terrorism. The Chinese foreign minister said during the delegation level talks, they had discussed 10 points and agreed to further cement the existing excellent cooperation. He said issues of close strategic partnership, implementation of CPEC projects, facilitating export from Pakistan, improving the local manufacturing factories and their integration with the international manufacturing at a fast pace, poverty alleviation and job creation were deliberated thoroughly and unanimity of views were expressed.

Following a one-on-one meeting, the two foreign ministers held an in-depth exchange of views on the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including economic cooperation, CPEC, defence cooperation and cultural and educational cooperation. During the meeting, the regional situation also came under discussion. Qureshi also reaffirmed that the country will not let its territory be used for terrorism. He said the Chinese minister appreciated Islamabad's role against terrorism and urged the international community to recognise the efforts and achievements made by Pakistan for countering terrorism. Qureshi said the Chinese foreign minister extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit an expo in China in November as the guest of honour. The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang were also invited to visit Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the visiting Chinese delegation also called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa. According to ISPR, matters relating to regional security and bilateral cooperation were discussed during the meeting. The Chinese foreign minister said Pakistan-China relationship is based on convergence of views and mutual respect. Appreciating professionalism of the Pakistan Army, the Chinese foreign minister said that world should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and reconciliation. He appreciated security provided to CPEC projects and said China believes in inclusive prosperity.

The COAS thanked the Chinese foreign minister for his visit and continued Chinese support to Pakistan. He said Pakistan has suffered from global contest but we are poised to claim our rightful place in the comity of nations through commitment to peace and stability both within and without. The Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan Yao Jing was also present during the meeting.

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