Neighbouring India is an issue likely to come up when Shah Mahmood Qureshi visits Beijing. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor includes two new power projects and the biggest rail line in Pakistan’s history.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is expected to visit Beijing this week to discuss more Belt & Road investment projects, as well as border troubles with their mutual neighbour India over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Qureshi is expected to discuss the next steps in cooperation on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$62 billion project under China’s Belt & Road Initiative, according to a statement by China’s envoy to Pakistan last week.
Pakistani media reported this week that Qureshi would make a one-day visit on Thursday, although neither government has confirmed the trip. China’s foreign ministry did not reply to questions from the South China Morning Post regarding the trip.
Domestic media reports, citing unnamed sources, said Qureshi would discuss future economic corridor projects, regional security and Kashmir.
Both Beijing and Islamabad took issue with India’s moves in the disputed region of Kashmir last year, which remove special administrative status from the region and create two new Indian union territories, underlining claims to disputed border areas claimed by both China and Pakistan.
And both China and Pakistan have engaged in bloody conflicts in border regions since India’s moves last year, including a deadly border clash in the mountainous region of Ladakh between Indian and Chinese troops in June, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
According to Pakistani media reports, Qureshi said on Monday that cooperation platforms such as the CPEC and the Beijing-backed Shanghai Cooperation Organisation were part of his ministry’s strategy to push back against India’s “expansionist designs” in the conflict over Kashmir.
Claude Rakisits, associate professor in diplomacy, at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University said: “I suspect Kashmir will be discussed in the expected talks between Pakistan and China this week, but it won’t be as high on the agenda as CPEC.
“China wants to make sure that Pakistan doesn’t go wobbly, or move too slowly, on CPEC.”
Rakisits added that India, along with the United States, would be watching the China-Pakistan talks. “But CPEC is a done deal and can’t be stopped. China has sent its message loud and clear on that one from Ladakh,” he said.
Both China and Pakistan have pledged that CPEC cooperation will not be impeded by the coronavirus economic slowdown affecting both countries, and new projects continue to be brought on board.
Last week, in an interview with domestic news outlet The Express Tribune, Pakistani Planning Minister Asad Umar announced that plans for the next financial year would be agriculture and science and technology projects.
Umar also announced that the addition of two new power projects with a capacity of 1,980 megawatts had been commissioned under the CPEC, and the official approval for the Mainline-1 (ML-1) rail line, the “biggest rail project in the history of Pakistan”, he said via Twitter.