At the invitation of H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Dr. Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, visited China from 16-17 March 2020. The President was accompanied by the Foreign Minister, Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives, and senior officials. During the visit, President Dr. ArifAlvi met with President Xi Jinping.
Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman National People’s Congress, Li Zhanshu, also met President Dr. Arif Alvi. Given the depth and breadth of Pakistan-China ties and the finest traditions of both countries to always stand by each other particularly in challenging times, President Dr. Arif Alvi’s first visit to Beijing was a singular expression of Pakistan’s solidarity with its “iron brother.”
The visit was undertaken at a time while China was engaged in a massive national struggle to contain the Covid-19. President Dr. Alvi praised the relentless efforts undertaken by China for containing and controlling the virus, and was confident that the Chinese people under the leadership of President Xi Jinping will emerge stronger and victorious in the aftermath of Covid-19.
President Dr. Arif Alvi also appreciated China’s keen resolve to look after Pakistan’s nationals during this difficult time. The Chinese leadership had assured that it was taking the best possible measures to ensure the safety, health and well-being of Pakistani nationals, including the students. President Xi thanked President Alvi for visiting China at a critical time and expressed profound gratitude for Pakistan’s gesture of support and solidarity.
The Chinese leadership stressed that since the outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party and government have given top priority to people’s life and health. On the basis of nation-wide mobilization, China adopted the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures in little time to contain the virus. Chinese side emphasized that China has made major progress in prevention and control of the virus and will win “People’s War” against Covid-19.
Both China and Pakistan underlined that Covid-19 is a common challenge for humanity and all countries should unite and cooperate to overcome this challenge together. President Alvi spoke highly of China’s major progress in battling the epidemic, and acknowledged that China’s efforts have won time and set a model for the rest of the world to combat the epidemic, and have made contribution to safeguarding global public health security. Leaders of the two countries took the opportunity to exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
The exchange was marked by the exceptional warmth, the convergence of views, and strategic trust that characterize the China-Pakistan “All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.” Stressing that the close and strategic ties, and deep-rooted friendship between Pakistan and China served the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and contributed to peace, stability and development in the region, the two sides underscored that the enduring partnership between Pakistan and China remains unaffected by the vicissitudes of the regional and international developments and continues to move from strength to strength.
The two sides reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership aimed at building a Community of Shared Future in the New Era. Both sides reaffirmed their support on issues concerning each other’s core national interests. The Chinese side reiterated solidarity with Pakistan in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty, independence and security. The Pakistan side reaffirmed its commitment to the One-China Policy and underscored that affairs related to Hong Kong and Taiwan were China’s internal affairs.
The Pakistan side underlined that due to the developmental measures undertaken by Government of China, Xinjiang was on the path to overall social stability and economic development. Pakistan underscored that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a signature project of Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), was transformational. A CPEC Authority was established to oversee the expeditious implementation of CPEC projects.
Both sides maintained that the new phase of high-quality development of CPEC will promote industrialization and socio-economic development in Pakistan. Both sides hoped that the 10th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of CPEC, to be held soon, will further contribute to making CPEC a High-Quality Demonstration Project of BRI. Both sides stressed that the economic and social impact of CPEC on the region will be substantial and beneficial and hoped that the international community will support such efforts that underpin economic development.
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. China recognized measures taken by Pakistan to combat terrorism financing and appreciated the resolve with which Pakistan implemented the Action Plan of FATF. Both sides expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation at multilateral fora and resolved to deepen strategic coordination, consultation and communication. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and support for multilateralism and win-win cooperation. Both sides exchanged views on the situation in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Pakistan side briefed the Chinese side on the latest developments, including its concerns, position, and current urgent issues. The Chinese side underscored that it was paying close attention to the current situation and reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.
Both Pakistan and China welcomed the signing of the Peace Agreement between the U.S. and Taliban and hoped that the intra-Afghan negotiations would be the next logical step. The two sides agreed that all Afghan parties must seize this historic opportunity and work together constructively to secure durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The two sides further emphasized the need for the international community to help establish peace as well as extend support for post-conflict reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan. Pakistan underscored the need to assist the Afghan government in creating an enabling environment and instituting “pull” factors to enable the Afghan refugees to return to their homeland with dignity and honour.
Both sides maintained that they will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with its neighbors. During the visit, President Dr. Arif Alvi and President Xi Jinping witnessed signing of various Agreements/MoUs. President Dr. Arif Alvi thanked the leadership and people of China for their gracious hospitality and invited the Chinese leadership to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient time. Both sides agreed to maintain high-level exchanges and mutual contacts.
What will the post-COVID world look like?
Although virologists have been warning of the risks of a global pandemic since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the world was still mostly unprepared when confronted with the COVID-19 crisis. However, it was also unlucky.
It was unfortunate that the pandemic came in the run-up to a US presidential election that has created an environment as politically polarized as any the country has experienced. As a result, much of the US media coverage of, and debate about, the virus and the global policies needed to deal with its effects have been more about the presidential race rather than the pandemic.
This has obviously had a clear effect on international politics because of the importance of the role of the US and its global leadership.
It was also bad luck that the health crisis came at a time of high tensions between the US and the second largest global power, China, where the virus originated. This further complicated any potential global unified response.
As a result of the global uncertainty, it is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the crisis, which seems likely to continue for at least another 12 months, will play out in the Middle East, and also what a post-COVID world might look like.
One certainty is that most countries will be forced to shift their focus and resources to domestic matters rather than regional issues.
The virus and the resultant shutdowns imposed to “flatten the curve” of infections have had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences on economies and national budgets. It seems that despite the soft reopening of parts of economies around the world, the current health concerns will prevent a full restoration of business activities for some time, especially if the number of infections and deaths start to rise again after governments relax precautionary measures.
In our increasingly interconnected world, it is difficult to determine whether any country will come out on top economically, and consequently geopolitically, especially given mounting levels of debt.
Countries able to borrow in their own currency seem to be at an advantage; this applies mainly to the US and the EU (if the European countries can unify their policies), and indirectly also explains the current debate in the Gulf about the unpegging of currencies.
Another certainty is that with less money available, wars and proxy wars will become prohibitively expensive and all parties will be forced to scale down their ambitions. As a result, aggression will be reduced and consensus and agreement might be more readily reached. Countries and their allies or proxies who have refused to sit at the negotiation table might now change their minds and mellow, or perhaps even be forced to completely withdraw from conflict zones.
Take Iran, for instance, which has been targeted recently by a successful US policy of maximum pressure. The country is facing problems domestically and, with the added pressure of low oil prices, it will be less able to maintain its financial support to the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, and Hezbollah.
Does that mean Tehran will cease its meddling? Nothing is certain but domestic turmoil might force it to do so.
As Iran’s problems have grown, the region has witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic the emergence of a more assertive Turkey. This has happened despite the fact the country is also suffering economically.
It has been a long time in the making. Turkish involvement has spread to many regional issues beyond its normal national security zone. Its involvement in neighboring Syria is understandable, given that the conflict there directly threatens Turkey’s security. More interesting is the Turkish interest in Libya, where Ankara is pushing for a continued presence with no apparent direct threat or rationale to explain this. This is happening while it also increases political rhetoric that promises continued interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries in the years to come.
A closer look at the issues reveals that Turkey is focusing its involvement on key points on Europe’s energy routes. This is not surprising, as Europe remains Ankara’s main and constant focus. So, Turkey is now directly competing with Russia — the biggest supplier of gas to Europe — in Syria, where Iran is also strongly entrenched as the country is a key Mediterranean access point for its gas and energy deliveries to Europe.
Turkey is challenging Russia for control of the tap that provides Europe with its energy stability, and this explains its involvement in Libya and other countries. The same logic explains Ankara’s negative reaction to the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot gas-pipeline project, EastMed. This motivates its strategy, as it hopes to leverage it to make more gains in the region.
Therefore, we can expect an increased Turkish focus on the Mediterranean and on supply-chain routes and access points for energy, as well as merchandise being shipped from the East to Europe.
On that point, the land routes of China’s Belt and Road Initiative include one that goes through Russia and another that passes through Turkey. This massive project is also something Turkey is well aware of, and Ankara is striving to ensure it has a presence on key points along the BRI’s Maritime Silk Road. Once again, it is being guided not by national security concerns but a desire to increase its regional clout.
It is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the corona crisis will play out in the Middle East.
Khaled Abou Zahr
While Russia and Turkey face off on the ground over an increasing number of issues, it is interesting to note the apparent lack of any direct involvement by the US or China, the two biggest global powers, and, surprisingly, the total absence of European nations, which should be the most concerned about what is happening.
In weighing how global and regional powers will direct their foreign policies and manage existing conflict zones, their own domestic political, economic and social stability will play an important role.
Yet, apparent weaknesses might invite bold moves and dangerous power-grab attempts. This delicate balance will be the key driver for international policies in the coming years. One might say that uncertainty and volatility have spread from the stock-markets to the geopolitical arena.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is the CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Courtesy : Arabnews.pk
US warns of ‘consequences’ if China abandons trade deal
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday he expects China to uphold a trade deal reached with Washington this year, and warned of “consequences” if the country did not.
The comments come amid a sharp drop in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a dispute between the two powers over fault for the spread of the virus, which first broke out in Wuhan, China.
The US and China in January signed an agreement to end a nearly two year-long trade war, that included a commitment by Beijing to buy an additional $200 billion in American goods over the next two years.
“I’m expecting them to meet their obligations,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network.
“I have every reason to expect that they honour this agreement and if they don’t, there would be very significant consequences in the relationship and in the global economy as to how people would do business with them.”
However, relations between Washington and Beijing have soured in recent weeks, with US President Donald Trump blaming China for the pandemic, and threatening tariffs.
The US has been hit with tens of millions of layoffs as the virus has spread, significantly weakening the previously solid economy, which Trump was counting on to win re-election in November.
The trade agreement signed in January includes $77.7 billion in additional purchases from the manufacturing sector, $52.4 billion from the energy sector and $32 billion in agricultural products.
The US currently runs a trade deficit with China, and the objective is to realign the trade balance between the two countries.
Pakistani doctors on forefronts against COVID-19 worldwide: PM
Islamabad:Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday said Pakistani health professionals were on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.
On Twitter, the prime minister said Pakistani doctors working abroad also desired to help the government in Pakistan for what a dedicated portal www.yaranewatan.gov.pk has been launched.
The initiative would provide the willing overseas health professionals a platform to register for voluntary services.
According to official portal, Yaran-e-Watan is a joint initiative by the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora health communities.
The objective is to facilitate voluntary two-way engagement that addresses the gaps in the health needs of Pakistani people by coupling them with the expertise of Pakistani and foreign health professionals practising abroad.
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