Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Sep 29 that Islamabad had so far not requested a restructuring, deferment or swap of debt owed to China in the wake of the catastrophic floods that hit the country.
Insisting that whenever such a conversation takes place, it would be on Pakistan’s own terms, he said that he would like the country to play the role of a bridge between China and the United States, rather exacerbating tensions or “being a geopolitical football”.
“What China does — whether it’s with Sri Lanka or Pakistan — that’s totally China’s decision. Just like it’s 100 per cent America’s decision in either of these circumstances,” he said in an interview with Foreign Policy’s Ravi Agarwal, who pointed out that Beijing “hasn’t quite come to Pakistan’s aid in a big way” after this year’s catastrophic floods and that even Sri Lanka wasn’t able to get much help from China in the wake of an economic crisis.
Bilawal went on to say: “Rather than being a point of competition or a venue for these divisions (between China and the US) to be exacerbated, I would like Pakistan to continue to play a role that we have in the past. Pakistan originally played a bridge between China and the US, resulting in diplomatic relations between the two countries.”
“And right now, particularly when we’re drowning in floods, I don’t want to play any part in exacerbating any tensions or being a geopolitical football,” Dawn.com reported on Thursday.
“In this time of great geopolitical division, I would much rather play the role of a bridge by uniting these two great powers around working together for climate change.”
The foreign minister hoped that “perhaps, Pakistan’s unique position as a friend of both the US and China could encourage cooperation on this front”.
Bilawal’s remarks come against the backdrop of China and the US engaging in a war of words over assistance for debt and flood relief to Pakistan to help it cope with the consequences of this year’s deluges.
On Monday, US State Secretary Antony Blinken had called on Pakistan to seek debt relief from China while reiterating Washington’s support to Islamabad in these challenging times.
The remarks had drawn a censorious response from China, whose foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had called out the US for “passing unwarranted criticism against Pakistan-China cooperation” and urged it to do something “real and beneficial” for the people of Pakistan.