In a massive boost to bilateral economic ties, Pakistan and China on Monday signed 51 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in diverse fields, and envisaged a whopping $45 billion worth Chinese investments in Pakistan.
The Chinese investments are expected for the projects that constitute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and foresee the creation of road, rail and pipeline links that would cut several thousand km off the route to transport oil from the Middle East to China, while bypassing India.
Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of agreements in Islamabad. The two leaders also unveiled plaques of eight projects to be undertaken in Pakistan with Chinese assistance.
Pakistan and China have enjoyed close diplomatic and military relations for decades, though economic ties that have only grown more recently. Bilateral trade crossed $12 billion last year compared to only $2 billion a decade earlier.
Prime Minister Sharif said the agreements and MoUs signed by the two countries have sound financial and technical backing.
He reaffirmed that friendship with China is the corner stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
There are strong public sentiments driving our relations, which provide a sound basis for their strength, he added.
Sharif said the most prominent hallmark of Pakistan-China relationship was consistency and resilience, irrespective of political developments, changes in the two countries and major regional and international developments.
Pakistan-China ties have remained robust. Relations between the two are based on shared ideals and principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit and respect, he said.
In his remarks, President Xi said the main objective of his visit is to further cement and give new boost to the strategic partnership and friendly ties with Pakistan.
He assured Sharif that China would continue playing its part for sustainable socio-economic development of Pakistan with particular focus on development in Balochistan province.
The Chinese president said special attention would be paid to further strengthen economic strategic partnership with Pakistan in next 10 years.
“The real opportunity of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is that it changes the scope of the relationship from geopolitics to geo economics,” said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, who is overseeing the projects that constitute the crucial economic corridor.
The upgrade will stretch 3,000 km from the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea to China’s western city of Kashgar. Pakistan transferred control of the Gwadar port to a Chinese public company in 2013, giving China warm-water access.
Iqbal said $11 billion have been set aside for the corridor.
The two countries are also set to cooperate in gas, coal and solar energy projects to provide 16,400 MW of electricity – roughly equivalent to Pakistan’s entire current capacity, said Iqbal.