In an unprecedented development, Chinese President Xi Jinping who held talks with Prime Minister Modi on Friday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, did not hold talks with Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit kicked off in Kazakhstan, with the admission of India and Pakistan topping the agenda. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who already met Chinese leader Xi Jinping, also took part in the leaders’ meeting.
In a rare snub to all-weather ally Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping skipped a customary meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the SCO summit in Astana after the murder of two Chinese teachers in Balochistan.
Xi’s unprecedented action followed deep disappointment and grief among Chinese public over the slaying of the two Chinese citizens who were kidnapped last month from Quetta in Balochistan.
The two were brutally murdered reportedly by Islamic State (IS) militants. The news of their murders was made public ahead of the SCO summit held on June 8-9 in which India and Pakistan were admitted as members.
The case has received wide attention in Chinese media and underlined the concerns in China even as the government goes ahead with major investments in Pakistan.
On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “We are highly concerned.” Hua said China had “always been advising Chinese citizens to not visit highly risky regions” but did not clarify if any prior warnings for Balochistan had been issued.
Diplomatic sources said it is highly unusual for the Chinese and Pakistani leaders to not meet at a summit, especially when a China-India bilateral meet takes place given Pakistan’s usual sensitivities.
China’s State media on Saturday reported Xi only had held talks with PM Modi, as well as with leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and the King of Spain who is in Astana for a world expo held alongside the SCO summit.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying explained that the murders were no way connected to the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which was opposed by the Baloch nationalists.
The CPEC is part of China’s ambitious multi-billion Belt and Road intuitive (BRI) .
Official approval of India’s and Pakistan’s accession bids became a key part of the summit. The two Asian powers had long aspired to become full members of the SCO, with their membership memoranda signed during the 2016 summit in Uzbekistan.
The SCO will now include four nuclear power, Russia, China, India and Pakistan, not to mention the member states’ economies. According to rough estimates, the SCO members combined will comprise around half of the world’s population and produce a quarter of global GDP.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), otherwise known as the Shanghai Pact, is a Eurasian political, economic, and military union founded in 1996 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
After the admission of India and Pakistan, it will now have eight members, with Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia being observer states.