Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) greets Pakistani President Arif Alvi on Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan via Getty Images)

Pakistan’s President Pays Solidarity Visit to China

Islamabad: Asian giants are ‘iron brothers’ in face of coronavirus, defense challenges

[Islamabad] Pakistani President Arif Alvi was in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday for a visit emphasizing cooperation between the two Asian countries in the fight against novel coronavirus.

“I am visiting China to express solidarity with the Chinese people who have fought the coronavirus epidemic and to express condolences over the loss of lives,” Alvi said before his departure from Noor Khan Air Force Base in Rawalpindi.

It was his first visit to China since becoming president in September 2018.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, minister for planning, development and special initiatives, accompanied Alvi.

Qureshi told the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan at Beijing’s airport: “The president’s visit will… provide an opportunity for the top leadership of the two countries to review bilateral relations and discuss new developments in the region, especially the Afghan peace process and the latest situation in occupied Kashmir.”

He added that “China and Pakistan are committed to advance construction of the CPEC, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a series of infrastructure projects under construction throughout Pakistan, was launched in April 2015. The goal is to connect Pakistan’s Arabian Sea ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s western Xinjiang Province, which borders Central Asian states and Afghanistan. Scores of Chinese engineers and workers are in Pakistan to complete these projects.

Calling Pakistan and China “iron brothers,” the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said on Monday that Alvi’s visit “would play an important role in further solidifying historic bonds of trust and mutual support” between the countries.

“Pakistan and China are staunch partners, and the president’s visit is singularly aimed at conveying strong support and solidarity of Pakistan toward the government and the people of China while Beijing is resolutely engaged in efforts to contain and deal with the spread of COVID-19,” the ministry said in a statement.

Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry and a former ambassador to Pakistan, said during a recent press briefing: “Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Pakistani government and people have offered strong support and assistance to China…. Not long ago, Pakistan’s National Assembly and Senate passed resolutions to fully support China’s fight against the epidemic, making Pakistan the first country in the world to do so.”

Dr. Zafar Mirza, special assistant for health to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, told The Media Line that assistance in the time of coronavirus goes both ways.

“In the wake of the current outbreak of COVID-19, China has provided emergency assistance to Pakistan for prevention and control, including 12,000 test kits, 300,000 masks, 10,000 protective suits and $4 million to build hospitals,” he said. “Pakistan is now fully capable of detecting the virus.”

Adil Faroque, an Islamabad-based defense analyst, told the Media Line that the Pakistan-China relationship was based “primarily” on joint security interests.

“Both China and Pakistan believe that after its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the US will try to maintain its presence in the region, and for this purpose, US officials are interested in establishing intelligence bases in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and in response, China is fully supporting Pakistan,” he said.

Faroque added that Beijing was Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and military equipment.

“Recently, both countries signed another defense contract to supply eight state-of-the-art submarines to the Pakistan Navy, the largest defense deal ever between the countries,” he said, adding that such cooperation had helped Islamabad develop its arms industries.

“Technology transfers from China have enabled Pakistan to begin producing military hardware on its own,” he said.

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