Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani embarked on a five-day official trip to China on Wednesday, amidst strained ties between Pakistan and the United States.
Kayani’s visit, at the invitation of the Chinese leadership, is the first in recent years.
The army chief will call on the political and military leadership of China during his visit, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a brief statement.
His interactions will “encompass the complete range of Pakistan-China relations related to security and defence,” the statement added, without giving details.
A military official told The Express Tribune that the general is expected to meet the Chinese president and prime minister, besides other top security officials.
His discussions will certainly focus on current developments, including the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and the US following the November 26 Nato airstrikes on Pakistani check posts, which killed 24 troops.
General Kayani will brief the Chinese leadership about a review by Pakistan to rewrite terms of engagement with the US, the official added.
His visit is also being seen as an attempt by Islamabad to reach out to regional players such as China, Russia and other neighbouring countries to offset any negative fallout in ties with Washington.
“We want to take our relationship with China to the next level,” a security official said.
He added that Kayani will also discuss with the Chinese leadership cooperation in counter-terrorism measures.
China has privately voiced concerns that Muslim separatists operating in the Northern Xinjiang and Kashger provinces are being trained by al Qaeda and the Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Last year, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha dashed to Beijing to assure China that Pakistan was committed to dismantling such training camps.
For the first time, the two countries recently held brigade-level counter-terrorism exercises to bolster security and intelligence cooperation.
In recent years, China, the largest supplier of military equipment to Pakistan, has provided Pakistan frigates, combat jets and other gear at subsidised prices or against soft loans.
Kayani’s visit is part of a series of high-level exchanges between the two countries in recent years. Last month, Chinese vice premier and State Councilor Dai Bingguo toured Islamabad to reassure Pakistan his country’s ‘unflinching support.’
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.