ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss the security situation in the disputed region of Kashmir as well as economic ties, his office said on Monday.
Tensions over Kashmir have risen drastically since August when New Delhi revoked the autonomy of its portion of the territory, which both India and Pakistan rule in part and claim in full.
Pakistan expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade soon after and Khan launched an international diplomacy campaign in an attempt to draw global condemnation of India’s treatment of Kashmiris.
China, which also holds a thinly populated high-altitude area of Kashmir and has a longstanding dispute over the border with India, called New Delhi’s actions “unacceptable”.
“The visit will be instrumental in further cementing Pakistan’s economic, investment and strategic ties with China,” said the statement from Khan’s office.
“The Prime Minister will exchange views…the state of peace and security in South Asia arising from the situation in occupied Jammu & Kashmir.”
India says the status of Kashmir is a domestic issue and Kashmir will economically benefit from its move.
Khan’s visit will also include talks on the progress of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the $60 billion infrastructure programme China launched as part of its flagship “Belt and Road” project.
Some officials and observers have said momentum on CPEC projects is slowing, in part due to concerns over the size of Pakistan’s debt and struggling economy, which led Islamabad to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion bailout package in July.
In a news conference on Sunday, Pakistan’s Khusro Bakhtiar, Minister for Planning, Development and Planning, denied there had been any slowdown in CPEC projects.
“(There’s) a narrative being built up that they have become slow; I reject it, it’s totally wrong,” he said.
Bakhtiar also said the Beijing visit would include talks on the ML-1 railway, one CPEC project which has stalled due to questions over funding.
Khan’s visit comes before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is due to decide whether Pakistan’s efforts to clamp down on terror financing are sufficient for it to avoid being placed on a ‘black list’ of nations that includes Iran and North Korea.
China is one of 39 FATF members. The government did not say whether Khan’s trip would address the issue.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad and Charlotte Greenfield in ISLAMABAD; Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hasan in KARACHI; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)