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Pak FM Bilawal Bhutto due to hold talks with Wang Yi on his maiden visit to China

This will be Bilawal's first bilateral visit abroad since assuming office last month

bilawal bhutto AP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari | AP

Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is due to arrive late Saturday on his maiden visit to China to hold comprehensive talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to firm-up all-weather ties between the two countries.

This will be Bilawal's first bilateral visit abroad since assuming office last month, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The 33-year old, whose mother Benazir Bhutto and grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were former Prime Ministers is just back from New York where he held talks with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and discussed strengthening the US-Pakistan relations which deteriorated during the previous Imran Khan regime.

In his interviews to the media after his talks with Blinken, Bilawal ruled out that Pakistan's growing relationship with the US would hurt its ties to Beijing.

The Global Times reported that Bilawal is expected to arrive in China late Saturday and official activities will start from Sunday morning.

He is due to hold extensive consultations with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Sunday to establish first direct contact between the new government headed by Shehbaz Sharif with the Chinese leadership.

According to informed sources, the talks between both the Foreign Ministers will be held in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Sunday.

Their meeting was being held in Guangzhou as Beijing is currently under semi-lockdown to contain the fast spreading Omicron variant of the COVID-19.

Bilawal is accompanied by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and senior officials, Pakistan state-run APP news agency reported earlier.

Ahead of his visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Saturday congratulated Pakistan and China on the 71st anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.

"Congratulations! May 21 is the 71st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. FM Bilawal will visit China from May 21. #Thisisdoublehappiness," he tweeted from his official account.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's two-day visit to May 21 marks the 71st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and China.

On May 21, 1951, Pakistan and China established diplomatic ties almost a year after India.

India became the first non-Communist country in Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on April 1, 1950.

Bilawal already held talks with Wang through video link on May 12 followed by a virtual meeting between Sharif and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.  

Their talks were focussed on strengthening the safeguarding of safety for Chinese citizens and institutions in Pakistan in view of the spate of attacks on Chinese nationals including the recent suicide bomb attack at the Karachi University and revitalising the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is bogged down by delays.

India protested to China as the CPEC is being laid through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

Close ties between Pakistan-China in the last 4-decades widely believed to be aimed at countering India remained steady despite the periodic political crisis in Pakistan leading to a change of governments including those by the military rulers.

During their talks Bilawal and Wang will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, with a particular focus on stronger trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and China, Pakistan Foreign Office said on Friday.

In April, Bilawal's predecessor Shah Mehmood Qureshi during his visit to China has announced that Beijing has agreed to roll-over USD 4.5 billion debt due to be paid by Pakistan this year.

On Friday Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Bilawal visit will see his hope of taking China as the first destination of his overseas visits realised and also marks the first in-person high-level interaction between the two countries since the new Pakistani government was formed.    

"As all-weather strategic cooperative partners, it is necessary for China and Pakistan to strengthen communication and coordination on major strategic issues and jointly respond to new developments in the international and regional situation and various risks and challenges," Wang Wenbin said.

He said Wang Yi will hold a comprehensive and in-depth exchange of views with Bilawal on bilateral relations and issues of common interest.

"China hopes to take this visit as an opportunity to renew our traditional friendship, consolidate strategic mutual trust, further deepen our all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era," the spokesman said. 


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