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Pakistan’s Army Chief Visits China to Deepen Ties

FILE - Pakistan's Chief of the Army, General Asim Munir.
FILE - Pakistan's Chief of the Army, General Asim Munir.

Pakistan's Chief of the Army, General Asim Munir, is in China on a four-day official visit where he is holding meetings with the leadership of the People's Liberation Army to discuss military cooperation between the two countries.

Munir met with Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, where the Chinese official described the relationship between the two countries as consistent. “No matter how the international situation changes, China always gives Pakistan priority in its neighborhood diplomacy,” Zhang said, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

Pakistani military to further deepen and expand their pragmatic cooperation and jointly safeguard the common interests of the two countries, as well as regional peace and stability,” according to Xinhua.

After arriving in China, Munir visited the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army, or PLA, and then had a detailed meeting with the PLA commander. Bilateral security and military cooperation issues were discussed in the meeting, said Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry of the Pakistan Military’s Inter Service Public Relations.

The military commanders from the two countries reiterated the need to maintain peace and stability in the region and to increase military cooperation, Chaudhry said. The Pakistani army chief will hold several meetings with China’s military leadership to enhance the long-standing relationship between the militaries of both countries.

Military interests

Former Pakistani diplomat Ali Sarwar Naqvi said Munir’s visit is key for the militaries of both countries, and there will be discussions regarding the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on various projects, including the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, a connectivity infrastructure project that is a part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative.

“Although the army chief is the head of the land forces, he also plays an important role in Pakistan's overall defense affairs, so it is likely he will have discussions on eight submarines for [the] Pakistan Navy, out of which four were to be built in China and four in Pakistan,” Naqvi said.

“In addition, Pakistan had an agreement to buy 25 J-10 aircrafts, of which only 12 so far have been received by Pakistan. Apart from this, many weapons, including tanks for the Pakistani army, may be discussed,” Farhan Bukhari, Pakistan correspondent of Jane’s Defense Weekly and Financial Times told VOA.

Geopolitical interests

Former Pakistani Lt. Gen. Naeem Khalid Lodhi, speaking to VOA Urdu, said this visit is important in terms of getting economic assistance.

“Many countries are moving away from America and getting closer to China, so Pakistan also needs to look at it from a long-term benefit perspective rather than short term. America is backing India to challenge China, which is against our interests. Similarly, they don't want [the] Taliban government in Afghanistan. This is also against our interests, so Pakistan needs to make its own decisions, and these issues will be discussed in the visit,” Lodhi said.

The bilateral meeting comes at a time when relations between China and India are tense, which Bukhari said can benefit Pakistan in its rocky relationship with India.

Saudi Arabia to the negotiation table and restoring diplomatic relationship between the two countries. China is a major player in the region and is trying to resolve major issues, and Pakistan can take advantage of its good relations with China,” he said.