Ties between China and Pakistan will be significantly deepened across a range of areas, from economic and cultural cooperation to foreign policy in regional as well as global platforms, as per the Joint Statement issued on Sunday by both countries at the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Beijing.
The statement, however, makes no mention of any ‘immediate support’for Pakistan.
Prior to their departure for the visit, the Pakistani delegation had talked of seeking balance of payments support from China through this visit, and Prime Minister Khan reiterated to journalists in Beijing on Thursday that he sought support to build foreign exchange reserves and assistance to avoid a possible International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
Instead the statement only says that both sides will “maintain frequent exchange of visits and meetings at the leadership level” and further bilateral meeting will be held on the sidelines of major multilateral conferences and events.
“During his visit, H.E. Imran Khan called on H.E. Xi Jinping, President of China, held talks with H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier, and met with H.E. Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and H.E. Wang Qishan, Vice President of China respectively” the statement says, suggesting Premier Keqiang was the key point person in the talks with the Pakistani prime minister.
The PM also gave a speech at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and visited the First China International Import Expo held in Shanghai.
The statement hailed the ties between Pakistan and China, saying they had “withstood the test of time, notwithstanding the changes in domestic, regional and international environments.”
In deepening the ties further, the statement says the two countries will build on the China-Pakistan All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership and the China-Pakistan Community of Shared Future, “in line with the principles set forth by the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good-neighbourly Relations” that the two countries signed 2005.
“Both sides will continue to view China-Pakistan relations from a strategic and long-term perspective” the statement says at the outset as it starts to lay out the terms of the future cooperation both countries agreed to undertake.
The Chinese side also “appreciated Pakistan’s important role in promoting regional peace, stability and security and efforts for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues with its neighbours” the statement says, adding that China “supports Pakistan’s efforts for improvement of Pakistan-India relations and for settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries.”
On the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), both sides “expressed satisfaction that rapid progress has been made in all areas especially in the energy sector” and underlined “their complete consensus on the future trajectory of the CPEC”.
The language appears to be aimed at rolling back some of the PTI’s commitments to ‘review’ CPEC projects, as well as some of the criticism it has levelled at the energy projects in the past.
The Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), which is the steering arm of CPEC, will “explore new areas of cooperation” and its 8th session will be held in Beijing “before the end of the year”. The last session was held in Islamabad in November 2017, during which the Long Term Plan was finalised.
Both sides agreed to accelerate work on Gwadar and its auxiliary projects, as well dismissing “the growing negative propaganda against CPEC” while underscoring their “determination to safeguard the CPEC projects from all threats.”
“The Chinese side expressed its appreciation for the measures taken for the security of Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan.”
The shape and direction of CPEC is now set to change, with a growing emphasis on “industrial capacity including through joint ventures in priority areas and relocation of labour-intensive industry and SMEs collaboration.”
The growing trade imbalance between Pakistan and China will be addressed through the second China Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, which the two sides “agreed to conclude as early as possible” while continuing with discussions on an agreement on trade in services as well.
In addition, both sides also agreed to boost cooperation in a wide range of areas, including tourism, maritime issues, navigation security, marine economy, resources, research and environmental protection. In addition to marine economy, emerging technologies like nanotech, biotech and ICT will also see strengthened collaboration to increase their contribution in health, agriculture, water, energy and food security.
Space cooperation will also be promoted, building on the launch of Pakistan’s Remote Sensing Satellite earlier this year.
Cooperation will now be enhanced in areas like climate change, desertification control, desalination, water management, afforestation and ecological restoration, wetland protection and restoration, wildlife protection, forestry industry development, disaster management and risk reduction among others.
All these are areas of cooperation that were already agreed upon in earlier discussions with the Chinese side that ended with the finalisation of the LTP in November last year.
The Joint Statement shows that the evolution of CPEC has now come to a point where these cooperative steps are ready to be activated.
In addition, the statement points at social sector cooperation without giving many specifics, only to say areas like “agriculture, education, health, poverty alleviation, safe drinking water and vocational training” will be increasing parts of the policy dialogue going forward.
Disease surveillance and control, as well as vaccine production and “traditional medicine” will also be part of the dialogue.
Both sides agreed to enhance people-to-people contacts, pointing at the 25,000 Pakistani students already enrolled in Chinese universities. “China will offer additional scholarships for Pakistani students” the statements says.
Cooperation in this area will go beyond to think tanks, vocational training, fellowships as well as “culture, arts, broadcasting, films, publication and sports”.
Both sides will discuss further collaboration in museums, and “the possibility to organise an Ancient Pakistan and Gandhara Artifacts Exhibition in Beijing.”
Defence and Security Cooperation
One of the most important areas of cooperation will be in future defence and security arrangements, where “[b]oth sides agreed to further enhance cooperation against ‘Three Evils’ of extremism, terrorism and separatism.”
“The Chinese side conveyed its support to Pakistan’s commitment and efforts to counter terrorism, assured Pakistan of its support in implementing its counter-terrorism strategy, and commended the tremendous sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation in fight against terrorism and for Pakistan’s immense contribution to regional and international peace and security through its achievements and successes,” the statement says.
Perhaps reflecting on the past meetings of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), where China withdrew its support for Pakistan abruptlyat a time when the grey listing of Pakistan’s financial system was under consideration, the statement suggests that the next meeting of FATF scheduled in November might be different.
“The Chinese side recognised Pakistan’s efforts in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terrorism financing, and called on all relevant parties to view Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts in an objective and fair manner.”
At a later point, the statement goes a step further, adding that “both sides underscored the need for all States to avoid politicisation of the UN Sanctions regime and the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).”
For its part, Pakistan “reaffirmed its support to the Chinese side in safeguarding its sovereignty and security, and combating separatism, terrorism and extremism including East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).”
On Afghanistan, both sides underlined their continued support for an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace and reconciliation process.
“China appreciates that Pakistan and Afghanistan are coordinating closely through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) to enhance cooperation between the two countries in all areas.”
Both sides also agreed on the importance of the tripartite foreign minister’s level talks between Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, calling on Afghanistan to host the second round of the dialogue “within this year”.
Foreign policy cooperation
“The two sides underlined the importance of peaceful settlement of all disputes in the Middle East on the basis of mutual respect and in accordance to the precepts of international law.”
The statement also had words of support for Iran in its growing confrontation with the United States, which recently announced that it will disengage from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was agreed upon after 20 months of negotiations between the United States, European Union and other partners and Iran.
“The two sides agreed that JCPOA is an important outcome of multilateralism and a good model of negotiated settlement of complex issues through dialogue and diplomacy” the joint statement says.
“They called on parties to uphold their respective commitments and to resolve all issues through dialogue. They opposed unilateral measures and long-arm jurisdiction that is inconsistent with the principles of international law.”
On nuclear proliferation, China supported Pakistan’s “engagement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and welcomes its adherence to NSG guidelines.”
Both sides also agreed that they will “strengthen coordination and cooperation on international and regional issues of common interest” in all international and regional forums. The Pakistani PM invited the Chinese leadership to visit Pakistan “at a mutually convenient time”.