Beijing, Jul 23 (PTI) Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss several bilateral issues, including progress of a joint probe and increasing security for thousands of Chinese workers after a blast in a bus in northwest Pakistan killed nine Chinese engineers and jolted the ties between the two all-weather allies.
Qureshi, who is due to arrive on Friday night for the two-day visit, will hold talks with Wang in western China’s Chengdu city, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a media briefing here.
China rushed a special team to Pakistan to probe the July 14 blast in a shuttle bus at Dasu area of Upper Kohistan district of the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where a Chinese company is building a 4320-MW dam on the Indus river. Thirteen people, including nine Chinese engineers, were killed in the incident.
Differing perceptions between the two close allies whether it was a terrorist attack or a gas explosion that hit the vehicle added to Beijing’s anxieties.
Initially, it was said that an explosion occurred before the bus fell into a ravine. Later, Pakistan announced that the bus fell first due to some technical issue and later on an explosion was caused due to gas leakage.
But the Chinese side kept on calling it an explosion and also sent a 15-member team of experts to probe the nature of the blast.
The blast and deaths of Chinese engineers caused a sense of unease and concern in Beijing as thousands of workers from China are employed in a host of projects of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
For Islamabad, ties with China are crucial due to its increasing economic dependence on Beijing. The CPEC launched in 2015 is considered a game-changer by many in Pakistan.
The talks are also taking place amid Beijing’s concern over the offensive by the Taliban in Afghanistan which included capture of China-Afghanistan border point in Badakhshan province and the reports of large number of militants of separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) consisting of Uyghur militants from China’s volatile Xinjiang province.
China, which wants the Taliban to sever links with terrorist groups in Afghanistan, has stepped up its diplomacy to reduce frictions between Pakistan and Afghanistan over Islamabad’s backing for Taliban and settle for a power-sharing settlement with the Afghan government.
“The two foreign ministers will also exchange views on deepening anti-terrorism and security cooperation and assuring the security of Chinese institutions and projects in Pakistan," Zhao said, elaborating on the issues to be discussed by Qureshi and Wang.
Asked about any updates about the joint probe into the bus blast, Zhao said, “China and Pakistan are still looking into the terrorist case” and he had no further information to offer.
Qureshi and Wang will hold the third strategic dialogue between the two countries, which are celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
They will exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern and bilateral cooperation, he said.
“The two sides are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. We support each other for mutually beneficial cooperation on bilateral terms and seek common development," he said.
“China is ready to take this opportunity of the foreign minister's visit to China, enhance strategic cooperation, deepen practical cooperation and lift relations to a new height and make active contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative," he said.
Earlier, the Pakistan Foreign Office said the time-tested Pakistan-China relationship is based on unparalleled mutual trust, understanding and commonality of interests and both sides are fully committed to building a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future.
It said that during Qureshi's visit, both sides will inter alia discuss further deepening of bilateral relations, focus on cooperation in the high-quality development under the CPEC, defence and security cooperation, COVID-19 vaccines, counter-terrorism and regional and international issues of mutual interest.
The visit will play an important role in further strengthening Pakistan-China “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” and will expand strategic communication and coordination with Beijing on a range of issues, it said.