Highlighting economic cooperation as a mainstay of Pak-Sino ties, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday expressed satisfaction at the growing bilateral trade and financial linkages between the two countries during a meeting with China’s Yang Jiechi in Islamabad.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Sharif hailed China’s “unstinting support” in helping Pakistan offset external shocks to the global economy, as well as the continued resilience of Pak-China cooperation during heightened global uncertainty. It said that the prime minister had “particularly” thanked China for renewing a RMB15 billion ($2.3 billion) syndicate facility, as well as appreciating Beijing for its support and assistance to Islamabad in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccines and protective equipment.
The wide-ranging meeting also discussed China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, with Sharif stressing that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had transformed Pakistan’s economic base and strengthened its capacity for self-development. Reaffirming the government’s resolve to accelerate the pace of CPEC projects, the prime minister underscored the importance within Islamabad of various key projects, including the ML-1 rail track; the Karachi Circular Railway; Babusar Tunnel; and a desalination plant in Karachi. He noted that Pakistan was ready to work with China to realize their shared vision of connectivity, prosperity and public well-being.
“Pakistan would also continue to support Chinese investors with competitive incentives, access to high-quality infrastructure and unwavering security arrangements,” the statement quoted the prime minister as saying, adding that CPEC and growing economic linkages had deepened the roots of the abiding friendship between the people of both countries.
Noting that Yang’s visit marked the continuation of high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China, a hallmark of the two countries’ time-tested “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership,” Sharif recalled his extensive conversation with Premier Li Keqiang in May, during which both leaders had reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchanged views on the regional and international situation. Sharif hoped Yang’s visit would accelerate the implementation of the leaders’ consensus on further enhancing bilateral relations across all domains.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the premier also underlined the Pakistan-China partnership’s role in ensuring regional and global peace and stability. Reiterating his condemnation of the Karachi terrorist attack that left three Chinese nationals dead, Sharif underscored Pakistan’s determination to bring the perpetrators to justice and reaffirmed the commitment to enhance security measures for Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in the country.
On the recent visit of tri-services delegation to China, led by Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the prime minister expressed satisfaction at the expanding defense and security cooperation between Pakistan and China. He emphasized the need to enhance people-to-people contacts, and thanked China for facilitating the return of Pakistani students to resume their studies. Sharif also appreciated Beijing’s decision to allow PIA to resume flights to China and increase their frequency.
Exchanging views on various international issues of mutual interest, the prime minister highlighted the adverse impact of India’s unabated repression and gross violations of human rights in India-held Kashmir and thanked Beijing for its principled stance and steadfast support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
Sharif and Yang also exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan, including the prevailing humanitarian and economic crises. The need for international cooperation and unfreezing of assets to avert humanitarian catastrophe and ease the misery of the Afghan people was also underscored. Reiterating a cordial invitation to President Xi Jinping, the prime minister said the people of Pakistan were looking forward to welcoming the Chinese leader on his next state visit to Pakistan at the earliest.
Yang’s visit also included the inking of several memorandums of understanding, including the scope of work of a government-to-government joint technical working group for the realignment of the Karakoram Highway from Thakot to Raikot; protocol on the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for Rhodes Grass exported from Pakistan to China; protocol on quarantine and health requirements for Buffalo embryos to be exported from Pakistan to China; acceptance letter of 3,000 sets of solar home system. The Chinese delegation also confirmed the roll-over of $2 billion SAFE deposits and said Beijing would export 200,000MT of urea fertilizer to Pakistan to facilitate its agriculture sector.
In a separate meeting with the Army chief, Yang vowed to help reinvigorate ties between Pakistan and China. “He assured to play his role for further improvement in diplomatic cooperation with Pakistan at all levels,” read a statement issued by the ISPR after the meeting at General Headquarters.
The ISPR, in its statement on Bajwa-Yang meeting, however, suggested that the Chinese side was satisfied with the renewed commitments. “The visiting dignitary thanked COAS for special measures taken for provision of safe and secure environment for Chinese personnel employed on various projects in Pakistan,” it said.
Yang also met Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and held wide-ranging discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral relations, as well as reviewing developments at the regional and international levels.
According to the Foreign Office, the minister welcomed the visiting dignitary to Islamabad, stressing that it reflected the strong momentum in high-level exchanges in recent months. Reaffirming Pakistan’s staunch support to the “One-China” policy and all core issues of China including Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and South China Sea, he thanked China for its firm support to Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as its steadfast support on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
The foreign minister also expressed satisfaction at the ongoing cooperation and coordination between Pakistan and China in the security and defense sector and voiced concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, aggravated by the recent earthquake. He highlighted the importance of unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets to ease the suffering of the Afghan people.
Yang’s visit to Islamabad comes at a time when the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and China is under stress due to the growing threat of terror attacks targeting Chinese citizens. Beijing had earlier demanded permission for the deployment of private Chinese security guards for the protection of Chinese personnel and installations, but this was denied by Pakistani authorities.