Beijing, February 5 – China is considering going ahead with a Presidential visit to Pakistan – more than five months after it was cancelled on account of security concerns – with Islamabad pushing Beijing to participate in a high-profile military parade on March 23.
The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday said it had “no information..at the moment” about the visit, when asked about Pakistani media reports which said President Xi Jinping would be the chief guest at the March 23 military parade, the first to be held after a seven year-hiatus.
Top-most on China’s mind is ensuring security for Xi’s visit, with Beijing taking the unprecedented step of cancelling Xi Jinping’s September trip to Pakistan. Xi went ahead with a visit to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, marking a rare instance of a Chinese leader visiting India without a stopover in “all-weather ally” Pakistan.
Asked if Pakistani media reports about Xi accepting the invitation were correct, foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said, “I have no information about it at the moment”.
“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners,” he added. “We maintain frequent high level visits. The high level visits have injected constant impetus to the growth of bilateral relations.”
That China postponed the visit last year underlined how security fears have cast a cloud on cooperation between the two countries despite the high-worded rhetoric of a relationship “higher than the Himalayas”.
According to Pakistani media reports, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will travel to Islamabad, perhaps as early as next week, to tie up the visit. Wang will likely focus on ensuring security arrangements are in place before Xi decides to accept the invitation.
Last week, China called on Pakistan to “ensure the safety of Chinese organisations and people” in the country when visiting National Assembly speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq met with China’s top legislator Zhang Dejiang. Zhang’s expression of concern about safety was mentioned prominently in the official release following the meeting.
China has also asked Pakistan to crack down on Uighur separatists belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) believed to be active near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
On Monday, China agreed to back India’s efforts to conclude early negotiations on the long-running United Nations Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and bring greater pressure on international financiers of terror.