China on Monday said it “noted the political change” in Pakistan, adding that it “will not affect” bilateral relations between the close allies.
With Pakistan’s Parliament electing Shehbaz Sharif as the new Prime Minister in the wake of the exit of Imran Khan, Beijing has been closely following the developments in the country it likes to call its “iron brother” and “all-weather” ally.
Chinese strategic experts said they didn’t expect a major change in ties, noting both Beijing’s past relations with Nawaz Sharif, former leader and brother of the new PM, and its historically close ties with Pakistan’s military.
The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said China “has noted the political change in Pakistan.”
“As a close neighbour and an iron-clad friend of Pakistan, China sincerely hopes that all parties of Pakistan can stay united and jointly defend national stability and development,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. “I want to stress that no matter how the political situation may change in Pakistan, China will unswervingly follow the Pakistan policy of friendship. We believe the political change in Pakistan will not affect the overall China-Pakistan relations.”
The Communist Party-run Global Times quoted experts as saying with the return to power of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) “China-Pakistan cooperation could be even better because these traditional major parties have much closer and deeper ties with China”.
“When Sharif was regional leader of the eastern province of the Punjab, he struck many BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] cooperation deals with China directly to improve local infrastructure and economic development, and his family have maintained long-standing ties with China as his brother Nawaz Sharif is a three-time former prime minister and the leader who kicked off the CPEC project,” the newspaper said.
Last month, China’s military hailed its relations with the Pakistan military as “the mainstay” of two-way ties. Chinese officials refer to the Pakistani military as a “stabiliser” in relations.
Over the years, Beijing has kept up close parallel relations with both military and civilian leaderships in Pakistan. Last month, during his visit to Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi not only had talks in Islamabad with then Prime Minister Imran Khan, but travelled to Rawalpindi to meet Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
During the meeting, Mr. Wang said “China appreciates the positive efforts and important contributions made by the Pakistani military over the years to consolidate and enhance the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan.”