Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang to visit Pakistan after attending SCO meet in India

Beijing: China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang will travel to Pakistan on Friday on a two-day visit after attending the meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers hosted by India in Goa, it was announced here on Thursday.

Qin is attending the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Foreign Ministers meeting being held on May 4 and 5 at Panaji in Goa where his Pakistan counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari too is taking part.

Besides being the Foreign Minister, Qin is also the State Councillor, a higher rank associated with the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

The formal announcement of Qin’s visit came on a day when the Chinese minister was in Panaji to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) foreign ministers’ meeting and other engagements on its margins.

Earlier this week, an United Nations Security Council committee agreed to allow the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, to travel to Pakistan from Afghanistan to meet Pakistani and Chinese counterparts.

The Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Pakistan’s UN mission requested an exemption for Muttaqi to travel between May 6 and 9 “for a meeting with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China”.

Muttaqi is facing a travel ban and an asset freeze under UN Security Council sanctions.

Pakistan will cover the costs of Muttaqi’s visit, the Reuters report said.

Qin’s visit to Islamabad for bilateral meetings with Pakistan’s top leadership as well as for the trilateral dialogue comes in the backdrop of China’s hectic engagement with countries in the region with a sharp focus on the resource-rich but isolated Taliban-led Afghanistan.

The Chinese minister, who is also state councillor, recently attended the fourth foreign ministers’ meeting among the “Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan” in Samarkand and the “Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan Plus Afghanistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue”.

Qin also chaired the second “Informal Meeting on Afghanistan Between Foreign Ministers of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran.”

New Delhi was conspicuously absent from all the mechanisms.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao, elaborated on the agenda of Qin’s visit.

“China hopes to exchange views with Afghanistan and Pakistan on the situation in Afghanistan and tri-party cooperation at the Dialogue, so as to build up consensus, consolidate mutual trust, and jointly contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region,” Mao said.

Mao added that Afghanistan faces “severe challenges” and in “dire need of more support” from the world despite having passed “over the most difficult time”.

She said the “international community needs to step up contact and dialogue with the Afghan interim government, support its effort of reconstruction and development”.

The interim government should be encouraged “…to build an inclusive government, exercise moderate governance, develop friendly relations with its neighbors and firmly fight terrorism”.

On Qin’s bilateral agenda with Pakistan, Mao said it will be an important part of the “…recent close and frequent interactions between the high levels of China and Pakistan”.

Qin will meet Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, just days after the latter had a phone call with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on April 27.

Qin and Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will co-chair the 4th round of China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.

The 3rd round of the Dialogue had taken place in July 2021 in Chengdu, China.

“The two sides will have in-person and in-depth communication on bilateral relations and the international and regional situation,” Mao said.

“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and ironclad friends. The friendship is time honoured,” she added.

Referring to Sharif’s visit to China in November, Mao said the aim of Qin’s visit is to “further deepen strategic communication and practical cooperation” and “promote the building of an ever closer China-Pakistan community…”