China’s Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) is willing to work with the Pakistani military to deepen and expand cooperation and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability, a senior official said on Wednesday.
According to the China’s defence ministry, Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Zhang Youxia spoke as he met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir during a visit to the PLA headquarters in Beijing.
Earlier, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the military, said in a statement that the army chief visited the PLA headquarters for talks on bilateral military cooperation and other matters of mutual interest.
This is the first visit by Gen Asim Munir to China since he took over the command of the Pakistan Army in November last year. Experts termed the visit crucial against the backdrop of key geo-strategic developments in the region and beyond.
The ISPR said that the COAS was given warm welcome and presented with the guard of honour at the PLA headquarters. The welcome ceremony was followed by a detailed meeting with the commander of the PLA Army.
“Matters of mutual security interests and military cooperation were discussed. Both military commanders reiterated the need for maintaining peace and stability in the region and enhancing military to military cooperation,” the ISPR said.
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The army chief also witnessed a demonstration of the operational capabilities of the PLA troops and praised the high standards of training and professionalism displayed by the soldiers, the military’s media wing added.
According to the ISPR, the army chief would hold further meetings with military leaders in China to enhance the long-standing relations between the two militaries. However, it was not immediately clear whether Gen Asim would meet with President Xi Jingping.
The visit to China by the army chief is being closely followed by Western diplomats in Islamabad since it will determine Pakistan’s future strategy in view of the growing tussle between Biejing and Washingtom.
Pakistan has tried to maintain a balance in its ties with the big powers but many observers believe that eventually the country may have to take sides.
Haroon Sharif, former chairman of Board of Investment, who worked in the past with Chinese, is of the view that with $30 billion bilateral debt and future stakes, Pakistan cannot turn its back on China.
The US, Sharif said, has realised this after using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program as leverage over Pakistan.
But observers believe that China will not extend free dole outs to Pakistan as it is concerned over certain issues including security of Chinese nationals and stuck up money of the Chinese run power projects.
On top of it, China is worried over the growing political instability in Pakistan. Experts are of view that China would be keen to hear views of the army chief on all these issues.
(WITH INPUT FROM REUTERS)