China Cancels Trip to `All Weather Friend,’ Pakistan

Chinese president Xi Jinping (Credit:
Chinese president Xi Jinping

NEW DELHI, Sept 5: Chinese President Xi Jinping has cancelled his mid-September trip to Pakistan amid political chaos in Islamabad, in what could be a strong signal to Beijing’s allweather friend that it must get its act together before hosting a big visit.

This would be music to India’s ears which had long opposed clubbing of visits to India and Pakistan every time a Chinese President or premier came to the sub-continent. It is no secret that Delhi has strong reservations against the Sino-Pak nuclear axis and Beijing’s support for infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Their decadesold defence partnership has been India’s Achilles heel. Xi’s visit was crucial for Pakistan, during which a number of economic and defence deals were expected to be signed between the two countries. Xi was scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the Lahore-Karachi motorway section, launch power projects and give final touches to the proposed Pakistan-China railway link.

The two countries are finalising plans to build an economic corridor between China’s Xinjiang and Pakistan’s Gwadar Port which is being developed by Chinese firms. China has announced $32 billion to be invested in next seven years in various Pakistani projects for infrastructure building and power During the September trip, Xi had planned to visit India and then Pakistan followed by Sri Lanka.

However, his proposed dates were clashed with President Pranab Mukherjee’s trip to Vietnam from September 14-17. As India was unwilling to reschedule the President’s trip to Hanoi, Xi decided to first visit Pakistan, followed by Sri Lanka and then reach India. This will be Xi’s first visit to the subcontinent after taking over as president.

Xi may announce big support for Indian infrastructure sector during his trip from September 17-19. Former High Commissioner G Parthasarathy told ET, “there would have been serious security concerns for a Chinese President to cancel his trip to Pakistan, a close partner for Beijing. By taking this step, he is trying to send a strong signal to Islamabad to strengthen architecture to address security concerns and also control extremist forces.”

Xi’s security delegation was in Islamabad on Wednesday to review the security situation in the light of the protests, and was not satisfied with the arrangement. Instead, it was suggested that he should visit Lahore instead of Islamabad.

However, his security team did not give clearance for that either. Last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also cancelled his visit to Pakistan in the wake of the country’s political situation. The cancellation was seen as a major blow to the Pakistan government.

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