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Pak Army chief visits China to strengthen defence ties

ISLAMABAD (PTI): Pakistan's Army chief General Asim Munir has arrived in China on a four-day official visit aimed at boosting bilateral defence ties.

This is Gen. Munir's fourth overseas visit ever since he took command of the Pakistan Army in November last year. In January, he visited Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) on his first official visit abroad since his appointment.

A month later, he visited the United Kingdom on a highly important visit on Britain's Ministry of Defence invitation to discuss security-related strategic issues.

After his UK visit, Gen Munir again visited the UAE.

"COAS is on a four-day official visit to China for enhancing bilateral military relations," the army's media wing said in a statement on Monday without providing any further details about the trip.

It is common for the new army chief in Pakistan to undertake a visit to China within weeks of his appointment. The delay this time is attributed to the internal situation in Pakistan.

The visit comes amidst mounting pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on cash-strapped Pakistan to arrange at least USD 6 billion to bridge the external payment financial gap.

So far, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have committed to providing USD 3 billion to Pakistan but the international lender has demanded assurance for the remaining amount.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif last week acknowledged the army chief's efforts towards securing financial commitments from Pakistan's friendly countries.

Though nothing has been said officially about the financial purpose of the visit, China is the only country, apart from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which is believed to provide critical support to Pakistan.

Pakistan's economy has been in dire straits after years of neglect by successive governments.

The economic crisis has worsened due to the prevailing political chaos in the country. Fighting between the coalition government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf of ousted premier Imran Khan on the one hand and the government and judiciary on the other hand over the holding of elections in Punjab have exacerbated the financial crisis.


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