A high-level Chinese delegation, led by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, is due to travel to Islamabad next week amidst continued uncertainty surrounding the troubled ties between Pakistan and the United States.
The delegation, comprising top officials from China’s diplomatic corps and intelligence services, will have wide-ranging talks with the country’s civil and military leadership, said a foreign office official.
The official told The Express Tribune the Chinese foreign minister would arrive on May 29 and hold formal discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar. Jiechi would also meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The official described the visit by the top Chinese diplomat as significant in view of the ongoing tensions between Islamabad and Washington over the resumption of vital land routes for the foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The supply lines were suspended in November last year in retaliation to Nato air strikes on the Salala check post near the border with Afghanistan, which left 24 soldiers dead.
Pakistan seeks an unconditional apology from the US for the attacks and imposition of an additional transit fee on Nato trucks.
Washington is, however, so far reluctant to accept those demands, delaying Islamabad’s final announcement to lift the six-month old ban on Nato supplies.
China is believed to have backed Pakistan’s stance on resetting ties with the US in line with the new policy terms approved by parliament last month.
Another official said Pakistani leadership would brief the Chinese delegation about the ongoing intense negotiations with the US.
“Pakistan and China share a common perspective on important regional issues including the Afghan endgame,” the official said, adding that Beijing, being an emerging world power, should have been invited to the recently held Nato summit on Afghanistan in Chicago.
Pakistan and China have enjoyed cordial diplomatic relations throughout six decades.
But there was a hiccup in recent years when Beijing expressed reservations over alleged links between Pakistani militants and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Chinese authorities had called former Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen (Retd) Ahmed Shuja Pasha to Beijing in August 2011, following an attack in Kashghar blamed on militants allegedly trained in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas.
The presence of officials from the Chinese intelligence services in the delegation means the issue will figure prominently during talks between the two sides.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.