Military cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad is an “important pillar” of bilateral relations, Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said on Monday as he met Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who made a surprise visit to China ahead of his retirement in November.
Bajwa has held the top post in the Pakistan Army for six years. He was initially appointed in 2016, but after three years of tenure, the then government of Imran Khan in 2019 extended his service for another three years.
Bajwa shares a close relationship with the Chinese leadership as Beijing, in a rare gesture, welcomed his three-year extension in 2019 saying that he was an “extraordinary leader” and an “old friend” of the Chinese government.
During his meeting with Bajwa at Xian in central China’s Shaanxi Province, Wei said the military cooperation between Pakistan and China was an “important pillar” of bilateral relations, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan Army.
Wei thanked Bajwa for special measures taken for the provision of a safe and secure environment for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in Pakistan and efforts toward regional stability, it said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on September 16 at Samarkand in Uzbekistan had called on Pakistan to provide “solid protection” for hundreds of Chinese working on CPEC projects and build stronger synergy between the development of strategies of the all-weather allies.
“China hopes that Pakistan will provide solid protection for the security of Chinese citizens and institutions in Pakistan as well as the lawful rights and interests of Chinese businesses,” Xi had told Sharif, airing Beijing’s concern over recurring attacks on the Chinese workers.
China has deployed hundreds of its personnel in a host of projects of the USD 60 billion CPEC in Pakistan.
Recent reports said trouble is brewing between the all-weather allies with China increasingly getting critical of Pakistan’s failure in protecting Chinese workers who came under periodic attacks from the militant groups.
In April, three Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide bombing in Karachi University carried out by the separatist outfit, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which is opposed to China’s investments in Balochistan and accused China and Pakistan of exploitation of the resource-rich province.
Some of the other attacks were also attributed to radical Islamic militant outfits in Pakistan.
With recurring attacks, China is reportedly pressing Pakistan to permit the Chinese agencies to provide security for their personnel, which according to press reports, Islamabad is resisting as it will mean boots on the ground for Chinese armed forces in Pakistan.