ISLAMABAD: In a first indication that China was positive about invitation for President Xi Jinping to attend the Pakistan Day parade, the Chinese foreign ministry expressed its “willingness” for continuing the momentum in ties.
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“We are willing to keep this momentum with the Pakistan side,” Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson Hong Lei said at the daily media briefing in Beijing while responding to a question about the invitation for President Xi. Underscoring the importance of high-level visits between the two countries, Mr Lei said: “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners of cooperation, and the two sides maintain frequent high-level exchanges which serve as inexhaustible driving force for China-Pakistan relations.”
President Xi was to visit Pakistan in August last year, but postponed the trip because of anti-government protests by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Islamabad. The government now wants the Chinese president to be the chief guest at the March 23 Pakistan Day parade which is being held after a break of seven years.
A senior Pakistani official told Dawn that the two sides were working on the dates for President Xi’s trip. Beijing and Islamabad have always been close regional allies. But US President Barack Obama’s visit to India last month brought them further closer.
Quite a few countries had concerns about the various agreements concluded between India and the US, but Pakistan and China reacted sharply. Statements on President Obama’s visit from both capitals expressed concerns over threats to regional stability from the reinvigorated US-India partnership and hoped that the Obama administration would contribute to regional peace and security.
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Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, whose visit to China coincided with Obama’s India visit, had won strong assurances from the Chinese leadership on defence and security cooperation. Foreign Minister Wang Yi had told Gen Sharif that China considered Pakistan as an “irreplaceable all-weather friend”.
Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign minister is likely to arrive in Islamabad on Feb 12, prior to the expected visit of the Chinese president. A senior government official engaged with the arrangements for Chinese FM’s visit told Dawn that earlier the date of his visit was uncertain but it had now been finalised and he would be in Islamabad on Feb 12.
When contacted, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said: “We will announce [date for the visit] at an appropriate time.” The Chinese FM is apparently coming in connection with the arrangements for the expected visit of President Xi.
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Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the Chinese president would visit Pakistan next month, but the exact date had not yet been finalised. “The visit of the Chinese leader will pave the way for economic stability in the country and no-one will be allowed to sabotage the visit,” he said. – Dawn