ISLAMABAD–Chinese President Xi Jinping will launch energy and infrastructure projects worth $46 billion on a visit to Pakistan next week as China cements links with its old ally and generates opportunities for firms hit by slack growth at home.
Also being finalised is a long-discussed plan to sell Pakistan eight Chinese submarines. The deal, worth between $4 billion and $5 billion, according to media reports, may be among those signed on the trip.
Xi will visit next Monday and Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign office said.
“China treats us as a friend, an ally, a partner and above all an equal – not how the Americans and others do,” said Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the parliament’s defence committee.
Pakistan and China often boast of being “iron brothers” and two-way trade grew to $10 billion last year from $4 billion in 2007, Pakistani data shows.
Xi’s trip is expected to focus on a Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, a planned $46-billion network of roads, railways and energy projects linking Pakistan’s deepwater Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China’s far-western Xinjiang region.
It would shorten the route for China’s energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime.
If the submarine deal is signed, China may also offer Pakistan concessions on building a refuelling and mechanical station in Gwadar, a defence analyst said.
China’s own submarines could use the station to extend their range in the Indian Ocean.
“China is thinking in terms of a maritime silk road now, something to connect the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean,” said a Pakistani defence official, who declined to be identified.
For Pakistan, the corridor is a cheap way to develop its violence-plagued and poverty-stricken Balochistan province, home to Gwadar.
China has promised to invest about $34 billion in energy projects and nearly $12 billion in infrastructure.
Xi is also likely to raise fears that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are linking up with Pakistani militants, and he could also push for closer efforts for a more stable Afghanistan.
Earlier, the Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday announced that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be visiting Pakistan from April 20 to April 21 on a two-day state visit.
“I can confirm that the Chinese president will be visiting Pakistan from April 20 to 21,” FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said during a weekly media briefing in Pakistan.
She said a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) and agreements would be signed during Xi’s visit to Pakistan.
Pakistan has been looking forward to the Chinese leader’s visit for the last ten months, but at least two scheduled visits have been postponed during the period.
Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong said on March 10 that the Chinese president’s March visit had been cancelled due to certain domestic engagements. The Chinese president was also expected to attend the Pakistan Day parade on March 23, according to an earlier plan.
The envoy said the Chinese head of state had to attend an ongoing session of parliament in Beijing, which takes place once a year. “It is mandatory for all Chinese leaders to be in the country for the parliamentary session,” he had said.
Another visit to Pakistan, in September 2014, had been postponed because of security concerns.
President Xi is expected to address a joint session of parliament on the second day of his visit, which may be summoned by President Mamnoon Hussain as close as a day before the address, a National Assembly secretariat spokesperson had earlier told Dawn. “However, no date has been mentioned by the government,” he had said.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily