Imran Khan and Pakistan army chief to rake up Jammu and Kashmir issue in China
In a marked departure from usual protocol, Bajwa joined Khan for a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday evening, and will also accompany Khan when he meets Xi on Wednesday.
Days ahead of President Xi Jinping’s high-profile visit to India, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa on Tuesday sought the top Chinese military leadership’s support on the Kashmir issue, saying unresolved tensions could affect regional peace and stability.
The powerful Pakistani army chief arrived in Beijing on Monday, a day ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will hold meetings with China’s top leadership to discuss regional developments, including peace and security in South Asia following India’s decision to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s special status on August 5 — an issue Khan and Pakistan have sought to, and, by their own admission, failed to internationalise.
In a marked departure from usual protocol, Bajwa joined Khan for a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday evening, and will also accompany Khan when he meets Xi on Wednesday. This is Khan’s third visit to China since August 2018. Army chiefs do not usually accompany heads of state to meetings with other heads of state.
At meetings with Gen Han Weiguo, commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and Gen Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), Bajwa discussed the regional security environment, including the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, said a statement from the Pakistani military’s media arm.
Bajwa apprised the Chinese military leadership about the “consequences of the ongoing situation” in Kashmir . The statement said the Chinese generals supported “Pakistan’s principled stance on (the) Kashmir issue” and “appreciated (the) sane Pakistani approach”.
“They agreed that continued unresolved Pak-India tension will have serious implications for peace and stability in the region. (Bajwa) apprised them that Pakistan looks forward to peace but that shall not be at the cost of any compromise on principles or honour and dignity of the nation,” the statement said.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency made no mention of Kashmir in its report on the meeting between Bajwa and Xu. China will “strengthen pragmatic cooperation with Pakistan in various fields and deal with risks and challenges together with Pakistan”, Xu was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Khan’s visit comes days ahead of Xi’s arrival in India for the second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Mamallapuram during October 11-12. The summit has already been hit by recent irritants in India-China ties, including Beijing’s stance on the Kashmir issue in recent weeks.
The Pakistani premier’s agenda is packed with meetings and a speech at a business forum, and his visit will wrap up with the closing ceremony of an international horticulture exhibition on the outskirts of Beijing. Besides the president and the premier, Khan will also meet Li Zhanshu, chairperson of China’s legislature.
Khan will also discuss the status and expansion of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative. He said last week that the removal of all bottlenecks in CPEC projects and their timely completion was the top priority of his government.
Pakistan also said several agreements are expected to be signed during the visit.
“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperation partners. We have a good tradition of close exchanges and communication. We have strategic mutual trust and advancing practical cooperation. Our cooperation in the CPEC is bringing more outcomes to our people,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing on Tuesday.
Khan is accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, planning minister Khusro Bakhtiar and Board of Investment chairman Zubair Gilani.
“It is important to note that General Bajwa will be sitting in during Khan’s meetings with Xi and Li. To my understanding, this is not the usual practice. At the domestic level, it shows the military-political government is on the same page. With reference to China, it indicates the security situation (in the region) is a really serious matter,” said Ghulam Ali of the School of Marxism at Sichuan University of Science and Technology.
On Kashmir, Ali said Khan may want to convey a message to India through Xi. “Given the close nature of (the Sino-Pakistan) relationship and trust, there might be a direct message via Xi to Modi that the Indian government’s action (in Kashmir) has affected the region. However, to what degree Xi is ready to play a role, and most importantly, whether India agrees to listen and accept any advice, is an entirely different thing,” he added.
On his first day in China, Khan caused a stir when he told potential investors he wished he could follow the example of Xi and send 500 corrupt individuals in Pakistan to jail.
Speaking at the China Council for Promotion of International Trade, Khan said the one thing he had learned from China was how its leadership tackled corruption.