Islamabad and Beijing are working on new dates for President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, a senior official at China’s diplomatic mission said on Sunday.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the official said the visit, which was reportedly originally scheduled for the middle of this month, was postponed upon mutual agreement between both sides.
“We [China and Pakistan] mutually agreed to postpone President Xi’s visit and are currently working on new dates which should not be far,” he said. His comment contradicted the statement issued by China’s foreign ministry a day earlier and corroborated the Foreign Office’s statement released the same day.
At a news conference on Saturday, the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry denied the country had officially informed Pakistan about President Xi’s visit. The Pakistani Foreign Office, meanwhile, announced the postponement of the trip was ‘mutually agreed’.
According to the official, the Chinese Embassy had been really busy over the last few weeks with making arrangements for the high-level visit.
“We had been really busy during the last few weeks in making arrangements for the visit of President Xi,” he said, noting that it would be Xi’s first visit to Pakistan since he took office and the first visit by a Chinese president in the last eight years.
When asked about the reasons behind the postponement, the official said the decision was made in light of the current security situation in Pakistan. He expressed hope that relevant parties in Pakistan would work together bearing in mind the fundamental interests of the state and the people.
In response to a question regarding the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement, the official said it pertained only to the official announcement of the visit.
The official also said postponing President XI’s visit has delayed the signing ceremonies of several projects. Both sides, as such, are exploring options to keep the momentum going, he said.
“We are trying to find out ways to get these documents signed so that the momentum is not affected.”
The official said there was a long list of projects up for signing, some of which have already started and some of which, such as the Lahore-Karachi motorway and the economic corridor, have been finalised after discussions. Several others, he added, are currently being discussed.
When asked whether China was offering Pakistan a loan or going for investment, the official said “we have variety of arrangements when it comes to economic cooperation, [all] transparent, fair and mutually beneficial.”
According to the official, President Xi would also be visiting India and Sri Lanka. “But Pakistan and China’s relationship can’t be compared with [our ties with] India.”
“Our [China and Pakistan’s] cooperation goes beyond [development] projects,” he said while referring to both countries’ collaboration on political affairs, global issues and counter-terrorism along with people-to-people contacts. “We have a history of bilaterally relations and a bright future.”
Referring to the four visits to China by Pakistani leadership in the last few months, the official said “no world leader has visited China so frequently.”
Meanwhile, in an informal chat with newsmen on Sunday, a senior Chinese embassy official brushed aside impressions that delaying President Xi’s visit to Pakistan would affect ties between the two countries.
“How can the postponement of a single visit between the two countries their decades old historical strategic partnership?” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2014.
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