Beijing- On his maiden visit to Beijing, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two leaders agreed to strengthen the all-weather friendship and the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Shehbaz arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night on a two-day visit. This is his first visit to China since assuming office in April this year. However, this is Shebaz’s second meeting with Xi after becoming the prime minister. He met Xi last month on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
In his Samarkand meeting with Shehbaz, Xi had called for providing solid protection for hundreds of Chinese working on the CPEC projects.
Shehbaz and Xi on Tuesday met at the People’s Great Hall of China and discussed broad-based cooperation in economy and investment besides exchanging views on regional and global developments, Pakistan’s state-run APP news agency reported on Wednesday.
The two leaders agreed to strengthen multilateral cooperation in diverse areas, including CPEC and strategic partnership, it said.
Both Shehbaz and Xi have expressed the desire to further promote the All-Weather Strategic Cooperation Partnership between their countries, the report said.
Shehbaz was the first head of state to felicitate the Chinese leader who was recently re-elected as General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) for an unprecedented third term, perhaps for life, a privilege accorded only to party founder Mao Zedong.
Shehbaz will also meet Premier Li Keqiang and Li Zhanshu, the Chairman of China’s Parliament — the National People’s Congress (NPC) — to discuss the all-weather ties.
During his visit, a number of agreements are expected to be signed, officials said.
During his talks with the Chinese leaders, Shehbaz is expected to make a case for Beijing to provide more help for his government to shore up the balance of payments position to avert a crisis similar to Sri Lanka.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan’s total non-Paris Club bilateral debt currently stands at about USD 27 billion, of which Chinese debt is about $23 billion.
Shehbaz’s visit is taking place amid a political impasse in his country as former prime minister Imran Khan queered the pitch to press for elections with Long March and the deepening economic crisis.
Ahead of Shehbaz’s visit, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that the trip is also “expected to advance the wide-ranging bilateral cooperation agenda with the conclusion of a number of MoUs/Agreements in diverse areas, and consolidate the momentum of CPEC cooperation in the wake of the 11th meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on October 27.”
India has objected to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
China is also unhappy over the delays in the projects of the CPEC, which is the flagship scheme of Xi’s multibillion-dollar pet project BRI, resulting in cost overruns and discontentment among Chinese investors.
Last month, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa held talks with Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe in a surprise visit to China ahead of his retirement amid reports that China is also concerned over Pakistan warming up to the US, the reported use of Pakistan air bases by American drones to conduct attack in Afghanistan.
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