Islamabad, January 28
Pakistan on Friday announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics next week, reinforcing the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” between the two countries.
During the visit, Khan will have meetings with the Chinese leadership, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said at the weekly briefing.
“The visit will reinforce the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between our two countries, and further advance the objective of building a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era,” he said.
The foreign office on January 13 had said that Khan will be embarking on a three-day visit to Beijing from February 3 on the invitation of the Chinese leadership.
The Beijing Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympics Winter Games from March 4-13, amid a diplomatic boycott by several Western countries, including the US and the UK, over concerns of China’s alleged human rights abuses.
China has launched a diplomatic offensive to mobilise world leaders to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics as the US, the EU and several western countries announced a boycott of the event by their diplomats to highlight the allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the incarceration of over a million Uygur Muslims in camps.
A host of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are due to attend the opening ceremony to show solidarity with Beijing.
China defends the camps, describing them as re-education centres aimed at de-radicalising sections of the Uyghur Muslim population from extremism and separatism campaign carried out by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
During the weekly briefing, Ahmad also sought to dispel the impression of any slowdown in projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by saying that both Beijing and Islamabad are strongly committed to take the infrastructure project forward and make it successful.
The USD 60 billion CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.
The initiative also led to allegations of smaller countries reeling under mounting Chinese debt after Sri Lanka gave its Hambantota port in a debt swap to China in 2017 on a 99-year lease.
FO Spokesperson Ahmad also said the 48th Session of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Islamabad from March 22-23.
He said Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood visited Jeddah from January 22-25, where Pakistan assumed the Chair of OIC’s Senior Officials Meeting in the run up to the Council of Foreign Ministers.