Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan may become one of the first foreign leaders to visit China after the start of the pandemic when he visits early next month, officials in Islamabad have said.
China hasn’t hosted foreign leaders since the start of the pandemic and the initial lockdown of Wuhan in January 2020. President Xi Jinping has also not travelled out of China for close to two years, since a visit to Myanmar in mid-January 2020.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the Winter Olympics in Beijing which start on February 4. While the dates of the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit haven’t been confirmed, an official in charge of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project said this week Mr. Khan will visit early next month.
Khalid Mansoor, Special Assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister on CPEC, said while unveiling a report on China-Pakistan economic cooperation that Mr. Khan wanted to “remove all bottlenecks for investors” ahead of the visit early next month, the Express Tribune newspaper in Islamabad reported.
The Chinese side had reportedly previously expressed concern about several slow-moving projects under CPEC.
Mr. Khan had ordered “the removal of 37 regulations to ensure on-window operation for foreign investors”, the report said, adding that he would be “personally taking briefings on progress on CPEC projects every 15 days”.
Safety of Chinese personnel has been another concern for Beijing. In July, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi travelled to China for talks with his counterpart Wang Yi for a strategic dialogue, which took place days after the death of 13 people, including nine Chinese workers, in a bus blast near the Dasu hydropower project.
Mr. Wang told Mr. Qureshi then that President Xi Jinping had “put forward clear requests” to bring the perpetrators to justice. Mr. Wang also called on the Pakistani side “to further improve security protection for Chinese nationals, institutions and projects in Pakistan”, an issue that is expected to be discussed when Mr. Khan visits.