Pakistan, China high level visits to pick up this year

ISLAMABAD    -   High-level exchange of visits between Paki­stan and China will pick up this year as the two countries come out of the Covid restrictions.

Senior Pakistani dip­lomats told The Nation that the visits of Prime Minister Shehbaz Shar­if, Foreign Minister Bi­lawal Bhutto Zardari and other cabinet mem­bers are expected this year before the gener­al elections, expected in October. “The PM and the FM are eager to vis­it Beijing before going into the elections. The op­tions are being considered through the diplomat­ic channels,” said one diplomat. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal is already scheduled to visit China this week for discussions on the China-Pakistan Eco­nomic Corridor and other bilateral matters.

Another diplomat said Pakistan also expects high-level visits from China during the next few months. Last week, cash-strapped Pakistan re­ceived a rollover of $2 billion in deposits for a pe­riod of one year from China to help Islamabad get a much-required bailout from the International Monetary Fund to stabilise its economy.

The rollover, which basically is not a loan but a financial deposit to be kept at Pakistan’s central bank for a period of one year, is one of the require­ments of the IMF in meeting its external financ­ing needs in order to move towards inking the staff-level agreement.

Pakistan and the IMF have been negotiating the release of a $1.1 billion loan since February but so far without any success due to the tough con­ditions by the donor which Pakistan is slow to ful­fil. Pakistan is scrambling to increase its forex re­serves which are estimated to be at $4.8 billion after China refinanced $500 million last week. Ear­lier, a Chinese bank provided $700 million to Paki­stan. Despite a slight improvement in the reserves, the situation is still grim as the country needs to pay $7 billion till June this year, making further borrowing necessary. The total Chinese SAFE de­posits stand at $4 billion and the remaining ma­turity would become due in a few months. China’s support has been critical as it has already provid­ed financial support in this critical hour to help Pa­kistan avoid the default. This month, Foreign Sec­retary Dr Asad Majeed Khan visited China from March 16-18. He called on China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang and held meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and with Chairman CIDCA Lou Zhaouhui. On the 18 March, Dr Asad Majeed Khan and Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong co-chaired the Third Round of Paki­stan-China Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC).

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