Bajwa’s Beijing sojourn
S M Hali


COAS General Qamar Jawed Bajwa made a high profile three day visit to Beijing, where he was afforded the opportunity to call on Chinese President Xi Jinping. This level of protocol is normally not provided to visiting heads of militaries but an exception was made in the case of General Bajwa. The Pakistani Army Chief also held meetings with his Chinese counterpart, officials of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other senior dignitaries, with whom he held discussions on bilateral security cooperation.

According to the Chinese media, in all the meetings, both sides resolved to strengthen the relations between, Pakistan and China and continue the progress of the CPEC. China appreciated the security initiatives taken by the Pakistan Army for the ongoing CPEC projects and expressed the desire to benefit from Pakistan’s military experience. General Bajwa also visited the Headquarters of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing and met the PLA Chief General Han Weiguoa. The PLA chief appreciated and acknowledged high professional standing of Pakistan Army displayed while combating terrorism. Vice Chairman of Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC), General Zhang Youxia, expressed in a meeting that the, “Pakistan Army is the backbone of the Pak-China relationship”.

The visit by the Pakistani COAS was at the heels of Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s three-day official visit to Pakistan. After meeting his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and making a courtesy call on President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Chinese Foreign Minister opined that Pakistan-China relationship is based on convergence of views and mutual respect. During his call on General Bajwa at the GHQ, appreciating professionalism of Pakistan Army, the foreign minister said that the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and stability.

Vice Chairman of Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC), General Zhang Youxia, expressed in a meeting that the, “Pakistan Army is the backbone of the Pak-China relationship”

The Army Chief’s visit to China had been planned well in advance but some politicians from the opposition benches found it prudent to surmise that all was not well with the Chinese Sate Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Islamabad. Some Pakistani politicians misconstrued that Pakistan is considering reviewing CPEC projects, much to the chagrin of China; hence the Army Chief was hurriedly dispatched to Beijing for damage control. A leader of the opposition, who has enjoyed the largesse of the Chinese government for decades, now found it opportune to point out that the top Chinese official was received by a senior Foreign Office official at the Noor Khan Airbase at Chaklala, instead of a senior government functionary, who should have welcomed him at the airport instead. The learned opposition leader even went to the extent of sharing a picture of June 2017, when then Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had received the Chinese Foreign Minister. “But, today, on arrival at Islamabad, he got ‘Pompeo treatment’, when junior Foreign Office official received him! Protocol oversight or deliberate downgrading?” he inquired.

Such baseless and irresponsible statements provided fodder to the grist mills of the detractors of CPEC, Pak-China deep ties and enemies of both China and Pakistan. Quoting the Pakistani opposition leaders, Indian media in particular and a section of the US media propagated that all was not well between the new government of Imran Khan and Beijing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Prime Minister has instituted a CPEC body to ensure that the projects get completed on time. Indeed if corruption has occurred in the execution of any of the projects, the culprits will face the music. Sino-Pak ties are not between two governments but between two nations. Governments may come and go but the deep bonds between the “iron-brothers” are forever.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will be undertaking a state visit to China this month. Yang Yi’s visit to Islamabad, Bajwa and now the PM’s high level visits to Beijing should put to rest all rumors and misreporting initiated by the adversaries and antagonists of Sino-Pak ties.

Such elements, both at home and abroad, who are trying to create a wedge between Pakistan and China over CPEC, are actually in a state of shock. India’s animosity is understandable because it has been trying to isolate Pakistan and has been a major critic of CPEC. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s high profile visit to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi leadership’s agreement to install the world’s third largest oil refinery in Gwadar city so Central Asian countries can be supplied oil, has shaken India out of its wits. As a first step, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj cancelled her meeting with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the sidelines of UNGA quoting flimsy excuses. Moreover her venomous presentation at the UNGA accusing Pakistan of the oft parroted lines of supporting terror, received flak at home.

It is Pakistani politicians, who should realize that Sino-Pak ties along with CPEC should unite the nation, not divide them.