All-weather friends: China President to visit Pakistan

china-xi-pakistanUnderlining the importance of Islamabad for Beijing’s foreign policy calculus, Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to travel to Pakistan this year.

Confirming the visit, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, however, said at a media briefing in Beijing on February 9, that the date for the presidential trip to Pakistan has not been decided. Ahead of the trip, Foreign Minister Wang Yi will travel Islamabad on February 12 to firm up the agenda for Xi Jinping’s visit.

China has also reinforced that Pakistan is its “irreplaceable, all-weather friend”. “China-Pakistan relations are developing steadily. The two countries are engaged in close high-level exchanges, and leaders of the two states meet with each other frequently,” said Hua.

“Leaders of our two countries maintain frequent exchanges. The exchanges of the leaders are of great significance in terms of leading the development of bilateral relationship,” she added.

Xi’s visit to Pakistan was cancelled last September due to security concerns in the context of political protests led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

The official announcement of the presidential visit came after speculation in the Pakistani media outlets that the Chinese president may be the chief guest at the March 23 National Day military parade in Islamabad.

The visit will be closely watched in New Delhi which has been wary of Beijing’s all-weather friendship with Islamabad. Beijing’s supply of arms and construction activities in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir has been a source of friction between India and China.

Besides Pakistan, China’s foreign minister will also be visiting the United Arab Emirates and Iran from February 12 to 16.

(Vikas Lather contributed inputs to this article)

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