Chinese president Xi Jinping has four major reasons for delaying his high-profile state visit to Pakistan. Xi was set to visit Pakistan as part of a tour that also included India and Sri Lanka, with Islamabad being the likely first stop. On 6 September, however, the Chinese foreign ministry released a statement stating that the trip would be cancelled for the time being due to ongoing anti-government protests, with new dates being discussed through diplomatic channels. A renowned Chinese analyst and journalist Mu Chunshan takes a look at the reasons that may have led to the cancellation of the visit.
1. The first reason for delaying Xi’s trip to Pakistan is because Beijing does not want to get involved in the ongoing conflict over there, which has led the demonstrations turn violent. If the protesters get what they want and incumbent Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is ousted shortly after Xi’s visit, then China will no doubt â€œlose faceâ€.
2. The second reason is because Pakistan is too preoccupied with the unrest to have the time or ability to properly cater to Xi’s visit. Ensuring Xi’s safety would have been a primary concern for both sides.
3. The third reason stems from the planned slate of bilateral agreements the two countries planned to sign during Xi’s visit, said to be worth as much as US$34 billion, about one-seventh of Pakistan’s national GDP. China must be having second thoughts about the economic risks of signing such high-value deals with an unstable government and would prefer to wait until the situation dies down before committing.
4. Fourthly, as â€œall-weatherâ€ friends, a change in Pakistan’s government will not affect the overall long-term relations between the two countries which is why China has decided to wait out the current conflict and stick to its â€œnon-interferenceâ€ principle when it comes to the internal affairs of foreign countries.
For Islamabad, the delay of Xi’s visit is particularly troublesome as the Chinese president will still go ahead with his planned trip to New Delhi, further raising suggestions that Beijing has become more interested in India than its â€œall-weatherâ€ ally Pakistan.
The apprehensions that China’s relations with India have taken priority over its relations with Pakistan are not unwarranted in light of the interactions between the two countries after Modi became Indiaâ€™s prime minister.