Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan this year, his first official state visit to the country since assuming the Chinese presidency. Xi was slated to visit Pakistan last fall, as part of a general South Asia tour that encompassed Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India. Due to widespread anti-government protests in Pakistan at the time, both the Chinese and Pakistani governments agreed that it would be best to postpone to the visit.
“That will be [Xi Jinping’s] first visit to Pakistan as the head of state of China and that will be the first visit of its kind in nine years,” Wang remarked. Wang, who is in Pakistan on a two-day tour, met with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, following meetings with the two Pakistani leaders and with Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, Wang remarked that China and Pakistan are in complete agreement on all points of discussion — a statement that echoes the common refrain in China-Pakistan relations of the two being “all-weather partners.” “During my discussion with Sartaj Aziz, we agreed on everything. This shows the high degree of trust and support between the two countries,” Wang said.
Interestingly, Wang’s visit addressed the issue of a joint China-Pakistan role in Afghanistan following the United States’ military withdrawal in that country. Wang noted that “ending Afghanistan’s turmoil was a common aspiration for both countries.” “China is ready to play its necessary role and will deliver its commitment in terms of security, economy and support,” he added. “Only with smooth progress can Afghanistan realize its potential and embrace a brighter future,” Wang further commented.
Since Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, came to power. China has been exploring the possibility of serving as an intermediary power between Pakistan and Afghanistan — two countries that have historically struggled to cooperate on security and political issues. For China, ensuring that the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border is secure and unavailable as a safe-haven for radical Islamic terrorists and insurgents is a major objective. To this end, Beijing is increasing its diplomacy with Afghanistan and even beginning to insert itself directly into Afghanistan’s national reconciliation process. Recently, senior members of the Afghan Taliban came to China for talks, suggesting China is becoming a broker between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Wang’s visit addressed the entire range of bilateral issues between Pakistan and China and offers insights into what to expect from Xi’s upcoming visit to Pakistan. Expect a more in-depth read of those issues from Shannon over at China Power.