Beijing: 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.

Sharif returned from Astana after attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit on the sidelines of which he met the presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Russia. Conspicuously absent was a meeting with Xi. Chinese state-run media highlighted Xi’s meetings with Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Xi’s unprecedented snub followed disappointment among the 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 8-9 June, in which India and Pakistan were admitted as members. 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 is opposed by the Baloch nationalists.

The CPEC is part of China’s ambitious multi-billion One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative. “This incident will not have any necessary connection" with Obor, nor with the summit of the SCO meeting being held in Astana, Hua had said. China has deployed hundreds of Chinese workers to work for the CPEC, which connects Gwadar port in Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Hua said Pakistan pays great attention to the protection of Chinese citizens in the institutions there and made great efforts for their security.

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