Pakistan’s all-weather friend may have publicly backed it in the face of simmering tensions with the United States, but China has privately advised Islamabad to avoid taking ‘extreme positions’ in its relationship with the United States.
The message was delivered by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who held extensive discussions with Pakistan’s top civil and military leaderships during his just-concluded trip to Islamabad, sources said.
The highlight of his visit was China’s emphasis on the world to recognise Pakistan’s ‘huge sacrifices’ in the war against terrorism and back Islamabad’s efforts to safeguard its ‘sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity’.
The carefully-worded remarks appeared to be aimed at the United States, which has questioned Pakistan’s credentials in the fight against militancy.
But privately, the Chinese foreign minister also conveyed ‘a word of wisdom’ to the Pakistani leadership on how to deal with the US. Beijing wants to see a breakthrough in the lingering stalemate between Pakistan and the US, sources said.
Points of convergence
“China wants Pakistan to have a balanced approach in its dealings with the US,” said a top Pakistani official familiar with the high-level discussions.
The official, however, did not say if a ‘balanced approach’ meant that Islamabad should stop insisting on an unconditional apology for last year’s Nato cross-border attack at a Pakistani check post.
He explained that while China itself had serious differences with the US on many issues, the two countries still had many areas of convergence.
“And that’s what they expect from us … to build our relationship where we have points of convergence with Americans,” the official said.
The official added that Beijing had encouraged Islamabad to sort out its differences, including the resumption of supplies for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The official said the visit of the Chinese foreign minister was part of periodic consultations between the two countries and preparation for the upcoming visit by President Zardari to Beijing, but the issue of ongoing tensions between Pakistan and the US figured prominently during the discussions.
Following his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the top Chinese diplomat on Wednesday met with Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Little was said about the meeting in a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
“The visiting dignitaries remained with him for some time and discussed the matters of mutual interest,” said a terse statement issued by the military’s media wing.
(Read: The future of Pak-US relations
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.