By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday wrapped up his two-day China visit amid meetings with Beijing's top civilian and military leadership, mainly to discuss the simmering crisis in Indian-administered Kashmir and ways to expedite the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Accompanied by the powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and head of the country's premier spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, Khan made his third visit to the Chinese capital since he took office in August last year.
Days ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's tour to three South Asian countries, including Pakistan's longtime rival India, some view Khan's visit as an indication of Beijing's preference to Islamabad in terms of regional security and diplomacy.
Xi is scheduled to visit India on Oct. 11-12 to attend an informal summit at the seaside town of Mamallapuram.
The cricketer-turned-premier culminated his visit meeting Xi to discuss "a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues", particularly the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, after New Delhi stripped the region of its longstanding special rights in August.
Khan also focussed on convincing Beijing that Islamabad was committed to speedy completion of $64 billion CPEC projects, which was "number one priority of his government".
Signed in 2014, CPEC, part of Beijing's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, aims to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinjiang province to the Gwadar port in southern Pakistan, through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.
Khan has long been criticized by the opposition for "slowing down" the implementation of different CPEC related projects just because it was signed by his key rival and jailed former premier, Nawaz Sharif.
- China says Kashmir issue should be resolved based on UN resolutions
"Khan's visit ahead of President Xi's India tour will serve as preemptive. It will preempt many things, which New Delhi is going to say during his visit, especially on Kashmir and CPEC," Ikram Sehgal, a Karachi-based security analyst told Anadolu Agency.
New Delhi has long been opposing CPEC which passes through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir -- territories claimed by India. Both the South Asian neighbors claim the disputed Kashmir region in full, but control parts of it. A silver line of the valley is controlled by China.
Beijing's open support to Pakistan's stance on Kashmir during Khan's latest visit, Sehgal observed, had sent a clear indication to India, which sought to exploit Xi's visit vis-a-vis Kashmir dispute.
In a joint statement released after the two leaders meeting, China said it "was paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir and reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements."
"China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation. The two sides underlined that a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous South Asia was in common interest of all parties. Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect," said the statement.
Referring to focus on Kashmir and CPEC during meetings between Pakistani and Chinese leadership, Sehgal said: "Just days before his India tour, Xi has sent a clear message to India that there will be no change in its stance on Kashmir or CPEC."
Tauseef Ahmad Khan, another Karachi-based political analyst, foresaw an economic impact of the visit in the coming days.
"Imran Khan has long been accused of slowing down CPEC projects to make Washington happy but his body language and focus on the project during his visit must have blown away the skepticism," he told Anadolu Agency referring to setting up of a CPEC Task Force by Pakistan, which will exclusively look after the CPEC related projects.
Also, he said, that the Chinese president during his upcoming visit could discuss ways with Indian premier Narendra Modi to de-escalate tensions between the two nuclear neighbors over Kashmir.
Apart from Turkey and Malaysia, China fully rejected India's controversial Kashmir move demanding a solution of the lingering dispute in accordance with the UN resolution.
In addition, Islamabad-sponsored ongoing efforts to revive stalled Afghan peace talks between the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban also came into discussion.
Khan also called on several top Chinese business leaders seeking to shore up his country’s depleting finances.
In a related significant development, Pakistan’s army chief met the top brass of the Chinese forces.