China and Pakistan have agreed to postpone President Xi's state visit to Pakistan, which was scheduled to take place later this month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said in a statement in Beijing tonight. The two countries made the decision in view of the current political situation in Pakistan, Qin said. Earlier today in Islamabad, a Pakistan Foreign Office statement said: "In view of the current political situation in Pakistan, the governments of China and Pakistan have mutually agreed to postpone the state visit of Xi Jinping to Pakistan."
"New dates for the President's visit to Pakistan are being discussed through diplomatic channels," it said. The statement came a day after China downplayed reports of cancellation of Xi's visit, saying the trip was never officially announced. "The two sides have maintained communication and made productive preparation for Xi's visit to Pakistan," Qin said, adding that new dates for Xi's visit, at an early date, are being finalised through diplomatic channels.
Both countries underline that China and Pakistan are time-tested all-weather friends, he said, stressing that the two attach great importance to Xi's Pakistan visit. Both sides expect Xi will visit Pakistan as early as possible, for promoting China-Pakistan mutually beneficial cooperation, Qin said.
The postponement is regarded as a diplomatic setback between the two close allies as Xi will be going ahead with the India visit omitting Pakistan for the first time. For over decade top Chinese leaders visited Pakistan whenever they made a trip to India and Xi's visit was regarded significant as this is his first visit to the subcontinent after he took over as President last year.
As per the schedule yet to be announced, he was due to visit Pakistan first and Sri Lanka and later go to India in the third week. The visit has now been cancelled due to political standoff between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the opposition parties led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahirul Qadri.
According to reports, Xi was expected to announce USD 34 billion worth of projects during his Pakistan trip.