PM Shehbaz says world can't afford US-China cold war, bloc politics

PM Shehbaz says world can’t afford US-China cold war, bloc politics


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has yet to travel to China despite being in office for over four months in a development seen as unusual given the fact Beijing has always been among the first destinations for any new Pakistani leader.

When Shehbaz replaced Imran Khan as the prime minister in April, there were plans that after his visit to Saudi Arabia, he would travel to Beijing.

However, the visit has yet to materialise.

One of the main reasons for the delay in his visit was the strict Covid-19 protocol being followed by Chinese President Xi Xinping, according to diplomatic sources.

But given the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China, observers feel Covid-19 protocols might not just be the only reason.

Nevertheless, there was no official word or explanation from either side.

However, PM Shehbaz might receive an opportunity to have an in-person meeting with President Xi next month.

President Xi is expected to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit scheduled for September 15 and September 16 in Samarkand.

Pakistan is part of the SCO that also includes China, Russia, India and central Asian states.

Sources told The Express Tribune that a bilateral meeting between President Xi and PM Shehbaz is on the cards at the sidelines of the SCO summit.

However, there is no official clarity whether President Xi will attend the summit in person.

Some reports suggest that he may attend the summit virtually because of the strict Covid-19 protocols.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among the leaders attending the SCO summit.

The sources said Pakistan was exploring options for a possible bilateral meeting between Putin and Shehbaz.

However, nothing is final yet, the sources added.

In an informal meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov invited his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to visit Moscow.

India, meanwhile, will take over the presidency of the SCO at the upcoming summit.

Some sources speculate the possibility of a courtesy call between Modi and Shehbaz.

Despite initial optimism for some kind of thaw after the change of government in Pakistan, there has been no indication of any positive movement on the bilateral front.

Though Pakistani and Indian soldiers exchanged gifts and sweets on their respective independence days, there were no official exchanges between the two countries.

But despite tensions, Pakistan said it would be taking part in the multination counter-terrorism drills in India in October.

Pakistan and Indian soldiers in the past attended the SCO counter-terrorism exercises.

However, this is going to be the first time Pakistan would be sending its contingent to India.

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