Deaths of Chinese nationals: Pak foreign min, ISI chief in China for talks
Top Pakistani officials including foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and ISI chief Faiz Hameed reached China on Friday. It comes days after the deaths of nine Chinese nationals in a bomb blast on a bus in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
While the Chinese foreign ministry announced the expected arrival of Qureshi on Friday morning, it did not formally confirm Hameed’s visit.
The news of Hameed’s arrival in China for “strategic talks” was published in Pakistani media on Friday.
The meetings are likely taking place or expected to take place in the southwestern city of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province.
Last week, the Chinese foreign ministry had said Beijing will dispatch a task force to Pakistan to jointly investigate the blast that killed its nine nationals. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had urged the Pakistani government to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel and the security of projects.
Nine Chinese and three Pakistani nationals were killed, and 39 others injured last week when there was an explosion on a bus in the Upper Kohistan district of Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
A Chinese state media report said the “…blast took place on a shuttle vehicle of the Dasu Hydropower Project, which a Chinese company is contracted to build, as it headed to the construction site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
“The visit of high-ranking Pakistani officials holds significance after a tragic incident in Upper Kohistan. Nine Chinese nationals working on Dasu Hydropower Project were killed when a bus transporting them to the construction site met (with) an accident,” Pakistan’s Geo News said in a report on Friday.
Islamabad has blamed hostile forces behind the Dasu incident, which according to them, was carried out to create misunderstandings between the two countries, the Geo News report added.
THE AFGHAN FACTOR
The high-level visit from Pakistan also comes in the backdrop of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
In June, Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi had told Qureshi and Afghan foreign minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar during a trilateral meeting that foreign military forces should withdraw in a responsible and orderly manner. “Countries in the region should play a more constructive role in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan,” Wang said at the meeting.
Earlier on Friday, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that at the invitation of Wang, Qureshi, besides the foreign ministers of Malta, Finland and Mongolia will visit China from July 22 to 28.
In Islamabad, Pakistan foreign office said that during Qureshi’s visit both sides will discuss further deepening of bilateral relations, focus on cooperation as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, defence and security cooperation, Covid-19 vaccines, counter-terrorism, and regional and international issues of mutual interest.
“This year, Pakistan and China are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. More than 100 celebratory events have been planned of which over 60 events have already been held so far. These celebrations have immensely contributed to injecting a fresh vigour and warmth in the traditional friendship,” the Pakistan foreign office said.