ISLAMABAD – With no end in sight to serious differences with the US, Pakistan is moving closer towards its old friendly neighbour China to offset the possible adverse impact of prolonged ‘stalemate’ with Washington, which is mounting pressure on Islamabad for an offensive in North Waziristan but is unwilling to halt drone attacks and withdraw hundreds of its spies and defence contractors from the country.
Pakistan is getting weary of persistent US demands for a full-fledged North Waziristan operation which Islamabad believes is not possible in the near future owing to the army’s intense engagement in various Tribal Areas in an effort to eliminate terrorism. In this backdrop, Islamabad is intensifying its diplomatic efforts to move closer to the time-tested friendly state, China and one such endeavour is the two-day visit of Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir to Beijing beginning today (Thursday).
During the visit he would meet senior Chinese officials and will also discuss with them the differences with Washington over various issues. “Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is visiting China for discussions with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on bilateral, regional and international issues on April 28-29. The foreign secretary will hold consultations with Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said in a statement.
However, another official seeking anonymity said it was more than a routine visit of one of the most senior Pakistani diplomat to China this time. “Foreign Secretary Bashir has always been a strong advocate of more closeness in ties with China as compared to the US,” he said. “He will discuss in detail Pakistan’s plans for enhancing cooperation in various sectors with China and one major part of the strategy is the field of defence and security to reduce dependence on Washington,” he said.
As Bashir visits China, Defence Secretary Lt General (r) Athar Ali is also leaving for the US in the next few days to participate in the Pakistan-US Defence Consultation Group meeting.