ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday left for China on a four-day official visit to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and meet the country's top leadership, including President Xi Jinping.
Khan's visit marks the culmination of celebrations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two all-weather allies.
A high-level delegation, comprising Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Planning Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, National Security Adviser Moeed Yousaf, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood and Special Assistant on China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Khalid Mansoor, is accompanying Khan on the trip.
Besides attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Khan is scheduled to meet President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang and the two sides would review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, with a particular focus on stronger trade and economic cooperation including the multi-billion-dollar CPEC project, the Pakistan Foreign Office said on Wednesday.
China currently has launched a diplomatic offensive to mobilise world leaders to attend the February 4 opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics as the US, European Union and several western countries have announced a boycott of the event by their diplomats to highlight the alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the incarceration of over a million Uygur Muslim men and women in camps.
As per the list released by China, 32 world leaders, including Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend the ceremony.
Prior to the departure, the accompanying ministers termed Khan's visit to China of great significance.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said Khan's meeting with the Chinese leadership would focus on bilateral strategic partnership, regional matters, and peace and security in South Asia.
Finance Minister Tarin said Khan would propose that the Chinese leadership relocate the industry in Pakistan's Special Economic Zones for a win-win situation besides extending assistance in agriculture.
NSA Yousaf said the visit would provide an opportunity to discuss ways to improve peace in Afghanistan to end terrorism, while Commerce Adviser Dawood said the meetings would focus on some areas of the free trade agreement and trade of cement, rice, fruit and vegetables.
Information Minister Chaudhry said Khan's China tour would further enhance the bilateral relations between Pakistan and China.
"Pakistan-China relations are deeper than the oceans and higher than the Himalayas," the minister was quoted as saying by the Geo News.
The prime minister will also hold meetings with the Chinese investors and businessmen on the sidelines of the tour, besides meeting the president and the prime minister, he said.
The Pakistan government hopes that Khan's trip to China will reinvigorate the CPEC project.
"Twenty-one different sectors have been identified to be discussed with the Chinese leadership," Information Minister Chaudhry told the Dawn newspaper on Wednesday after attending a series of meetings chaired by Khan at the Prime Minister House.
The sectors to be discussed during Khan's visit are related to the Special Economic Zones created under CPEC, trade, information technology, agriculture and the relocation of massive Chinese industries to Pakistan, the report said.
There has been a general impression that CPEC had slowed down ever since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came to power three years ago.
However, the government expects the PM's upcoming visit would be a boost for projects that are either being executed or have yet to launch under the ambit of the CPEC.
CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
The project was launched in 2015 when Chinese President Xi visited Pakistan and it now envisages investment of over USD 60 billion in different projects of development in Pakistan.
India has objected to the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.