Islamabad all set to roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping

New Delhi Published: Aug 12, 2020, 10:34 PM(IST)

File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The visit comes at a time when Pakistan's ties with its other allies are at their worst.

In a few months, Islamabad will be rolling out the red carpet for the most significant visit by a foreign leader Xi Jinping. The Chinese president is planning to visit Pakistan later this year.

According to reports, the announcement has been made and the preparations have begun. Only the dates haven't been finalised. The Chinese president was scheduled to travel to Pakistan way back in June but thanks to the Wuhan virus, he could not.

This will be his second visit to Pakistan in 5 years. Xi Jinping last travelled to Islamabad in 2015. Another prime minister was in power Nawaz sharif. Nonetheless, a total of 51 CPEC projects were signed during this visit. Now Imran Khan is in power. One can only imagine the kind of deals that will be struck this time.

The visit comes at a time when Pakistan's ties with its other allies are at their worst. Saudi Arabia, the fiercest and foremost Muslim brother of Pakistan. The rift between Riyadh and Islamabad is widening. First, it made Pakistan repay 1 billion dollars from the 3 billion dollar cash loan it had borrowed in 2018. Chinese cheque-books helped Imran Khan pay back this EMI. But then Saudi Arabia also shut the oil tap for Pakistan --- it decided to not renew a 3.2 billion dollar 'oil on loan' provision.

What did the Imran Khan govt do in return?. It approved the most expensive cpec project to date. Last week, Pakistan gave the go-ahead for a 6.8 billion dollar project to update its railway lines under the cpec agreement.
Saudi Arabia's apprehension and China's willingness to raise the Kashmir issue on global platforms. The Organisation of Islamic Countries has repeatedly refused to convene a meeting on Kashmir.

The OIC's de facto leader Saudi Arabia has run out of patience with Imran Khan's Kashmir obsession. This is where China has trumped the Saudis. Last week China convened a UNSC meeting to discuss Kashmir at Pakistan's behest but almost every security council member made it clear that Kashmir was not a matter for the un body to discuss.

China's attempts may have failed. It may have been embarrassed. But its relations with Pakistan haven't changed a bit. The China-Pak partnership remains as strong as ever and Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan is an attempt to remind the world of this reality. 

That Islamabad may be losing its friends in the Islamic world but it will forever have the support of communist China. That it will continue to get Chinese loans, Chinese projects and Chinese labourers who don't hesitate in thrashing Pakistanis over the slightest of disagreement.

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