The 4th round of the FM-level Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China undertook his first official visit to Pakistan from 5 to 6 May 2023. On 6 May 2023, the two Foreign Ministers co-chaired the 4th round of the Foreign Minister-level Pakistan-China Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad.

The Strategic Dialogue is a structured mechanism that reviews bilateral cooperation in key areas. The two sides reaffirmed the abiding vitality of the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership; develop a roadmap for multidimensional cooperation between Pakistan and China; and discuss the evolving regional and global landscape.

During the dialogue, the entire range of bilateral relations and cooperation, including in political, strategic, economic, defense security, education, and cultural domains was reviewed. Regional and global issues of mutual interest were also discussed.

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan congratulated the Chinese leadership on the successful holding of the ‘Two Sessions’. He wished China’s people and the new leadership greater success in building a strong, prosperous, and modern socialist country. He also expressed his resolve to work together with State Councilor Qin Gang to further fortify the Pakistan-China relationship.

Recalling the consensus reached between the leadership of the two countries during the visit of Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to Beijing in November 2022, the two sides agreed to further strengthen Pakistan-China strategic relations amidst profound regional and international changes. The Foreign Ministers expressed satisfaction at the growing momentum in high-level exchanges between Pakistan and China while reaffirming the need for convening important bilateral sectoral engagements.

The two Foreign Ministers underlined that Pakistan-China friendship was a historic reality and a conscious choice of the two nations. As ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners’, Pakistan and China enjoy complete mutual trust, and their iron-clad friendship enjoys complete consensus in both countries.

Both sides agreed on continuing their enduring support on issues concerning each other’s core national interests. Reaffirming Pakistan’s special place in China’s neighborhood diplomacy, the Chinese side reiterated its firm support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, as well as its unity, stability, and economic prosperity. The Pakistani side reiterated its commitment to the “One China” policy as well as its firm support to China on all core issues of its national interest, including Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea.

Welcoming the completion of a decade of CPEC in 2023, the two sides hailed CPEC as a shining example of Belt and Road cooperation which has accelerated socio-economic development, job creation, and improvement of people’s livelihoods in Pakistan. Reaffirming their commitment to the high-quality development of CPEC, both sides noted with satisfaction the steady progress of CPEC projects. The two sides reiterated the key significance of the ML-1 project under the CPEC framework and agreed to advance its earliest implementation. They also agreed to actively advance the Karachi Circular Railway alongside key areas of cooperation including, inter alia, agriculture, science and technology, IT, and renewable energy.

The two sides reviewed the progress of various projects at Gwadar, including the Friendship Hospital and New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA). Both sides reiterated their resolve to develop Gwadar as a high-quality port and a hub for regional trade and connectivity.

Acknowledging industrialization as highly conducive to long-term sustainable economic growth and development, they also agreed to work together in the guidance of the Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation to actively advance industrial cooperation. Both sides reiterated that CPEC is an open and inclusive platform for win-win cooperation and invited third parties to maximize benefits from CPEC.

The Pakistani side expressed gratitude to the Chinese side for its economic and financial support and its generous assistance package for post-flood reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The two sides reiterated their firm resolve to counter-terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Acknowledging the endeavors and sacrifices made by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism, the Chinese side appreciated the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure enhanced security of Chinese projects, personnel, and institutions in Pakistan, as well as the steps are taken to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators targeting Chinese nationals in Dasu, Karachi and other attacks. The two sides agreed to further build on the cooperation in security and counter-terrorism domains.

Reviewing their cooperation on regional and international issues at multilateral forums such as the United Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the two sides agreed to further deepen their coordination and cooperation to safeguard mutual interests. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and support for multilateralism, free trade, and win-win cooperation.

The Pakistani side supports the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative put forward by the Chinese side. The two sides are ready to advance cooperation on the GDI and GSI bilaterally and in multilateral fora. The Pakistani side welcomed the Global Civilization Initiative proposed by the Chinese side.

Both sides underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability in South Asia and the need for the resolution of all outstanding disputes. The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the latest developments of the situation in Jammu & Kashmir. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir dispute was left over from history and should be properly and peacefully resolved in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements. Both sides opposed any unilateral actions that further complicate the already volatile situation.

Stressing that peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for socio-economic development, connectivity, and prosperity in the region, both sides called on all stakeholders to work together for a peaceful, stable, prosperous, and united Afghanistan, which would firmly combat terrorism and live in harmony with its neighbors. The two sides underscored the need for the international community to provide continued assistance and support to Afghanistan including through unfreezing of Afghanistan’s overseas financial assets. The two sides agreed to continue their humanitarian and economic assistance for the Afghan people and enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan, including through the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan.

Qin said his country will “continue to do our best to support Pakistan’s foreign exchange and financial stability.” It was the Chinese decision to roll over even commercial loans to Pakistan that has helped keep Pakistan financially afloat. So, China’s help has been extremely vital to help Pakistan, at least keep its foreign exchange reserves.

Both foreign ministers rejected the perception that Pakistan is a victim of “debt-trap diplomacy” and the assertions that China targets struggling economies through unsustainable loans to pursue its geo-strategic goals. There is no basis whatsoever in the so-called debt sustainability, debt trap … concerns that are propagated. Chinese investment and financial support … is in keeping with the traditions of our unique, time-tested friendship.

Qin’s visit to Pakistan comes on the heels of the Pakistani army chief’s visit to Beijing just over a week ago and a bilateral political consultation there in March. The two heads of state met in China last November.

During a visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister to Pakistan, some potential expected outcomes could include:

Strengthening Bilateral Relations: The visit may aim to reaffirm the strong friendship and deepen bilateral ties between China and Pakistan. The discussions could focus on enhancing cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, energy, infrastructure projects, and people-to-people exchanges.

Economic Collaboration: Both countries may discuss furthering economic cooperation, including implementing projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This ambitious initiative aims to connect Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province with China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang through a network of infrastructure projects.

Security and Defense Cooperation: Given the strategic nature of their relationship, security, and defense collaboration may be a significant part of the discussions. This could involve discussions on joint military exercises, arms deals, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism efforts.

Regional and International Issues: China and Pakistan often coordinate their positions on regional and international matters. The visit may involve discussions on issues like Afghanistan, regional stability, cooperation within multilateral forums like the United Nations, and common interests in South Asia and the broader region.

People-to-People Exchanges: Cultural, educational, and tourism exchanges may be highlighted during the visit. Efforts to enhance people-to-people contacts, student exchanges, and cultural cooperation could be discussed as means to deepen the understanding and friendship between the two nations.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.