Beijing, February 17 – It is unclear whether Chinese President Xi Jinping may accept Pakistan’s invitation to preside over a symbolic national military parade on March 23, with officials in Beijing indicating that the Chinese leader was more likely to visit in April or May.
While a decision has not been taken yet on when Xi will visit Pakistan – the Chinese leader had already in September cancelled a visit on account of security concerns – Pakistan has been pushing for Xi to preside over the March 23 military parade, which will be the first to be held in seven years.
In recent weeks, a number of Pakistani media reports suggested the Chinese leader had confirmed his attendance. An announcement on the visit was expected last week with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visiting Pakistan to firm up the dates.
Following his two-day talks, however, Wang only said the visit would take place some time “early” this year. Top of Wang’s agenda was to check the security arrangements for Xi’s visit. China had already put off a visit last September – when Xi travelled to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – on account of security concerns.
Chinese officials told India Today that a March visit was “not likely”, and that a visit in April or May was a more possible outcome. For Pakistan, Xi presiding over the parade would be seen as a symbolic event, underlining the close relationship between the two countries, just as United States President Barack Obama attended the January 26 Republic Day parade in India.
If a May visit takes place, Xi could travel to Pakistan right before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in China. Modi will visit sometime before May 26 – when he completes one year in office – although both sides are still in communication over the specific dates.
India and China are also likely to have talks on the boundary dispute between their Special Representatives in March, with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval set to travel to Beijing.