By K J M Varma
Beijing, May 22 (PTI) Pakistan's newly-appointed Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Sunday in the Chinese city of Guangzhou to firm up the all-weather ties between the two countries.
This is Bilawal's maiden visit to China after he took over as foreign minister following the fall of the Imran Khan-led government last month.
Bilawal meets with the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang in Guangzhou, Pakistan’s state-run APP news agency tweeted.
Their meeting was held in Guangzhou as Beijing is currently under semi-lockdown to contain the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the COVID-19.
"Landed in Guangzhou on my first bilateral visit. Today also marks the 71st anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and China. Looking forward to meeting Chinese State Councilor & Foreign Minister Wang Yi for in-depth discussions on Pakistan-China relations," Bilawal tweeted.
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.
Bilawal is accompanied by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and other senior officials.
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.
Bilawal's two-day visit 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 was the first non-Communist country in Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on April 1, 1950.
Bilawal had earlier held talks with Wang through video link on May 12, followed by a virtual meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz 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 has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Close ties between Pakistan and China in the last four 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 had 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's 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 spokesperson said. PTI KJV SCY AKJ SCY