Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s two-day visit to Beijing focussed on the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which India has objected to because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The CPEC is a key component of President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
Sharif ‘s visit, which concluded on Tuesday, and his meetings with the top leadership in Beijing, including Premier Li Keqiang, came within days of the US releasing a report that claimed China could open a naval logistics hub in Pakistan to support its presence in the Indian Ocean.
Not too many details were shared about the meetings that the powerful Pakistan Army chief had with Li and Fan Changlong, vice-chairperson of China’s Central Military Commission that is headed by President Xi Jinping. But there was little doubt that the CPEC was in focus.
Sharif assured Li that the Pakistan Army will provide security to all bilateral projects.
“The Pakistani army appreciates Pakistan's profound friendship with China,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Sharif as saying. He said the “Pakistani side expects achievements from the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor and is ready to provide security for cooperation”.
Li said the CPEC is “not only a flagship project between the two sides but also conducive to development and prosperity of the whole region”. China, Li said, appreciates the strong support from Pakistan's government and military for the project.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar had raised India’s concerns about the CPEC passing through PoK during his meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing last month.
“We made our stand very clear…that India has strong reservations on their (China’s) activities in PoK. They noted our concerns. They explained that (the involvement) was on the economic aspect, with nothing against India from the defence or military side,” he had said.
Parrikar was confident China would address India’s concerns. “Our concerns were noted by them. I expect them to act on the concerns,” he had said.
The developments during Sharif’s visit indicated China and Pakistan are on track with the CPEC. Besides, military-to-military ties have “reinforced” China-Pakistan relations, especially economic cooperation,
Li called on both sides to strengthen high-level contacts and deepen exchanges in various fields. Economic cooperation and security collaboration between the two should be pushed forward “like two wheels”, he said.
Li hoped China and Pakistan will increase communication and coordination on global and regional issues to safeguard peace and promote common development and prosperity.