Pak PM sees 'more burden' on masses as country scrambles to secure IMF deal
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will embark on a two-day visit to China next week and meet President Xi Jinping during which they will review the all-weather strategic cooperation partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments, the foreign ministry said here on Wednesday.

Sharif will be among the first foreign leaders to visit China following the recently-concluded historic 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in which President Xi won an unprecedented third five-year term in power.

Sharif’s trip to China comes at a time when cash-strapped Pakistan is making all efforts to arrange billions of dollars for payment of debts and bridge trade deficit. Pakistan owes Paris Club countries a combined sum of around USD 10.7 billion. The Paris Club is a group of officials from major creditor nations whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan’s total non-Paris Club bilateral debt currently stands at about USD 27 billion, of which Chinese debt is about USD 23 billion.

The prime minister will visit China on November 1-2. He will lead a high-level delegation, which includes Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the foreign ministry said in a press release.

Sharif is undertaking the visit at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, it said.

The prime minister’s visit represents the continuity of frequent leadership level exchanges between Pakistan and China. Sharif will meet with President Xi and hold delegation level talks with Premier Li, the release said.

“The two sides will review the all-weather strategic cooperation partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments,” it said.

This would be Sharif’s first visit to China since assuming office in April 2022 and follows his meeting with Xi in Uzbekistan on September 16 on the sidelines of the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, the release said.

Xi, 69, was re-elected as the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) on Sunday, becoming the first leader after party founder Mao Zedong to continue in power after a 10-year tenure at the just concluded once-in-a-five years Congress, firming his grip over the party.

All his predecessors retired after 10 years in power, following a well-established rule.

Sharif’s visit is also expected to advance the wide ranging bilateral cooperation agenda with the conclusion of a number of MoUs/agreements in diverse areas, and consolidate the momentum of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation.

Launched in 2013, the CPEC is a corridor linking Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with Kashgar in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which highlights energy, transport and industrial cooperation.

The USD 60 billion CPEC is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of President Xi.

China has historically come to Pakistan’s rescue with economic, political, and military assistance and the leadership of the two countries has often described their ties as all-weather .

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