Ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan's first visit to China, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said the relations between the two nations is a "model of state-to-state ties" and the CPEC projects have given an important socio-economic development dimension to their friendship.
Khan, accompanied by Qureshi, will lead a delegation from November 2-5 to China for talks with President Xi Jinping amid anxieties in Beijing over his government's approach to deal with the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) following reports about Islamabad downsizing certain projects.
Khan's trip to Beijing comes ahead of a visit to Islamabad by International Monetary Fund officials on November 7 for formal discussions on a bailout package for the cash-strapped country.
Qureshi chaired a preparatory meeting for Khan's visit via video conference with the Ambassador of Pakistan in Beijing, Masood Khalid.
"The two countries are close friends, good neighbours and development partners. The bilateral relationship has withstood the test of times. Regardless of domestic or international changes, this close friendship has served as a model of state-to-state relations for other countries," he said.
Highlighting that Pakistan and China are "all-weather strategic cooperative partners", the foreign minister said the bilateral ties have been further strengthened, particularly in the economic field, by the launch of the CPEC.
Underscoring that the ambitious infrastructure project has added another important socio-economic development dimension to the bilateral relationship, Qureshi said, "The leadership of both countries has expressed strong desire and commitment to the successful implementation of the CPEC."
Beijing touts CPEC as the flagship infrastructure programme in its vast Belt and Road (BRI) Initiative. The CPEC connects China's Xinjiang province with Gwadar, a port city in Balochistan, through a rail, road and pipeline network.
India is opposed to the CPEC as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Qureshi said, "Pakistan considers the CPEC as an engine for growth; a catalyst for economic development, and a platform for socio-economic uplift of the people of Pakistan."
The IMF had said it would closely scrutinise the CPEC projects and the US is opposed to the use of IMF money to service the Chinese loans.
An assessment by the State Bank of Pakistan and the Finance Ministry showed that Pakistan needed USD 11.7 billion to service its external debt in the current fiscal year 2018-19.
The US has said the debts accrued on the CPEC projects were to blame for Pakistan's current economic crisis, a statement which was rejected by both Beijing and Islamabad.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang had told the media in Beijing that Khan's first visit will provide an opportunity for two countries to "open a new chapter of development of bilateral relations under the new circumstances".