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Xi launches $46-bn investment plan in Pakistan

Brushing aside India’s concerns, China on Monday cemented its “all—weather ties” with Pakistan by agreeing to build a strategic USD 46—billion economic corridor through the PoK as part of 51 deals signed, expanding the communist giant’s influence in the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled his country’s biggest overseas investment — the ambitious 3,000 km—long China—Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — during his historic maiden state visit to Islamabad.

A total of 51 agreements were signed in different fields, including infrastructure projects, energy generation, agriculture, education, telecommunications and research.

Of the 51, 30 agreements were linked to the strategic corridor, regarded as the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after Karakoram highway built in 1979.

It will shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12,000 kms.

The CPEC will link China’s underdeveloped far—western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar deep—sea port on the Arabian Sea via PoK through a massive and complex network of roads, railways, business zones, energy schemes and pipelines.

The corridor — expected to be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity — gives China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who along with Mr. Xi witnessed the agreements signing ceremony after holding talks with him earlier, said the two countries decided to increase regional and economic cooperation and that it considers China’s security as important.

“I have assured Xi, China’s security is as important to us as Pakistan’s security,” Mr. Sharif said, adding: “Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy.”

“Today, we have planned for the future,” he added.

Mr. Xi — who is also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party — has undertaken his first foreign visit this year, choosing to go to Pakistan after postponing it earlier.

The Chinese President approved the project, said to be worth USD 46 billion, despite serious security concerns in China’s restive Muslim—dominated Xinjiang province as well as the Taliban threat in Pakistan.

The CPEC is part of the mega Silk Road project initiated by China to firm up its connectivity to Europe, Asia and Africa through roads and port networks.

Pakistan hopes the investment — the initial focus of which is on electricity — will end its chronic energy crisis and transform the country into a regional economic hub by stabilising its cash—strapped economy, that had forced it to seek loans from the World Bank and the IMF in the past.

Mr. Xi’s trip is taking place ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China next month.

Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao had played down India’s concerns of it being laid through the PoK, saying that it is a commercial project.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 8:34:30 PM |

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