Beijing : China and Pakistan on Monday signed a new memorandum of understanding to boost their already close military relations, as China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Wei Fenghe visited the headquarters of the Pakistani army at Rawalpindi. Gen. Wei called on Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters, and both discussed “matters of mutual interest, regional security and enhanced bilateral defence collaboration”, Pakistani media reported. Both also discussed on-going projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in which the Pakistani military is playing an increasingly prominent role. Prior to Gen. Wei’s visit, recently appointed Chinese envoy to Pakistan Nong Rong conducted a “comprehensive review” of the CPEC projects along with former Pakistan Army Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, who is heading the CPEC Authority. The Chinese Defence Minister also had talks with Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza, Pakistani media reported, where both sides “reaffirmed their commitment to ‘iron brotherhood’ and ‘all-weather’ Friendship.” Gen. Bajwa, the Chief of Army Staff, was quoted as saying that both countries “had been standing together all along, and our relations will be no different in wake of future challenges”.
While details of the new MoU signed by the two militaries were not immediately available, it follows another agreement signed last year, when China’s Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) General Xu Qiliang visited Rawalpindi for defence cooperation and “capacity building of the Pakistan Army”. Gen. Wei’s visit followed his day-long visit to Nepal, where he was the highest ranking Chinese official to visit since President Xi Jinping’s visit in October last year. In his meetings with President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, both sides discussed “economic cooperation amid the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and military exchanges”, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported, adding that Gen. Wei said “China firmly supports Nepal to safeguard its national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will continue assisting Nepal’s military development, contributing to regional peace and stability.” The newspaper noted that military-to-military relations between the two countries were growing, with the PLA Air Force earlier this year sending protective outfits, medical masks and thermometers to the Nepalese military. Nepal’s then Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel visited Beijing in October 2019 when both sides signed a 150 million yuan ($22.8 million) deal on military assistance, the Global Times noted, adding that the two militaries had held joint special forces drills for three consecutive years.