Islamabad: China and Pakistan launched a plan on Monday for energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan worth $46 billion, linking their economies and underscoring China’s economic ambitions in Asia and beyond.
China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Islamabad to oversee the signing of agreements aimed at establishing a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor between Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and China’s western Xinjiang region.
The plan, which would eclipse US spending in Pakistan over the last decade or so, is part of China’s aim to forge ‘Silk Road’ land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe.
Xi, whose visit to Pakistan winds up on Tuesday (today), said it cemented an ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ between the neighbours.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the corridor would transform Pakistan into a regional hub and give China a shorter and cheaper route for trade with much of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” Nawaz said in a speech.
Xi linked the economic cooperation with security. “Our cooperation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously,” he said.
Nawaz added, “I assured President Xi that Pakistan considers China’s security as important as its own security.”
Xi called for greater efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where Pakistan is keen to restrict the influence of its rival India.
The two sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in civil nuclear energy, space and maritime technology, counter-terrorism and defence.
The two countries agreed to elevate their relation to ‘all-weather strategic cooperation partnership’, enriching the Pakistan-China community of shared destiny and ensuring the perpetual continuity in friendship from generation to generation.
A joint statement issued after the formal talks held between delegations of two countries lead by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif respectively said that the two countries reviewed with satisfaction the historical development of Pakistan-China relations and the progress made in recent years.
They agreed that the Pakistan-China relationship had acquired greater strategic significance against the backdrop of complex and changing international and regional situations.
China appreciated Pakistan’s consistent and staunch support on issues concerning China’s core interests. China reaffirmed its support and solidarity for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Pakistan. It appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues with its neighbours. In fact, friendship and cooperation between Pakistan and China served the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and contribute to peace, stability and development in the region and beyond.
The Pakistani side described friendship with China as the cornerstone of its foreign policy.
Pakistan is committed to one-China policy and fully supported China in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The two sides agreed to maintain close high-level exchanges, which would provide guidance for the healthy and sustainable development of bilateral relationship.
The two sides will further enhance strategic communication and coordination to safeguard their common interests.
“Chinese Presidents’ visits to Pakistan have always been historic. This visit too is historic. It is a watershed in the history of our relations,” Prime Minister Nawaz said. “I informed the president that Pakistan desires a peaceful neighbourhood to focus on pursuing growth and delivering prosperity to the people. To this end, we want peaceful relations with all our neighbours.”
Nawaz said he along with President Xi have taken ‘momentous decisions’ that would raise Pakistan-China relations to new heights and “have deep and far reaching impact for our common economic future and peace and stability in the region.” He said both the leaders discussed the full spectrum of their bilateral relations and decided to strengthen them further in the
strategic, political, economic and cultural spheres.
President Xi Jinping said China was working along with Pakistan to help it achieve its economic development and mentioned the solar power project in Cholistan to help with the livelihood program.
He appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peaceful co-existence with its neighbouring countries and appreciated Pakistan’s constructive role to help Afghanistan achieve peace and stability.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the visit allowed the two sides to coordinate positions on important multilateral issues, ahead of the 70th anniversary of founding of the United Nations.
“Both countries affirmed their common desire to work closely to secure our interests in the UN reform process,” he added.
He said Pakistan welcomed China’s policy of increased engagement with its neighbouring countries.
“We share President Xi’s vision for peace and prosperity in the region, which would be built on the dual principles of comprehensive security and win-win cooperation.”
Nawaz said President Xi welcomed the ‘resolute steps’ taken by Pakistan to counter terrorism and extremism, especially since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb against militants and terrorists.
He said President Xi also recognized the sacrifices being rendered by the armed forces and people of Pakistan in their effort to root out militancy and terrorism.
Nawaz said the CPEC would spur growth of Pakistan’s critical sectors of infrastructure, energy and industry. “We are starting a fresh phase in our geo-economic partnership that would create new jobs, start businesses, promote education and professional training, and help eradicate poverty.” “This Corridor will become a symbol for peace and prosperity,” he said.