Beijing, April 19: Deals ranging from energy and infrastructure to education and culture will be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day Pakistan visit that begins on Monday, Xinhua reported on Sunday. This is Xi’s first trip to the South Asian country since he took over as president in 2013. During the visit, Chi and Pakistan will sign deals on a wide range of issues — from energy and infrastructure to education and culture — which are expected to inject fresh and powerful impetus into the deepening of Chi-Pakistan friendship and comprehensive cooperation, the report said. And high on Xi’s agenda would be talks over the Chi-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is planned to connect Kashgar in Chi’s Xinjiang province to the south-western Pakistani port of Gwadar.
Gwadar Port is a warm-water, deep-sea port, situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan. Just outside the Strait of Hormuz, the port is adjacent to the key oil routes in and out of the Persian Gulf. It is also the nearest warm-water seaport to the landlocked but energy rich Central Asian republics.
During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Pakistan in May 2013, the two countries had agreed on building an economic corridor connecting the Pakistani port to Chi’s Kashgar city in Xinjiang. The CPEC will shorten Chi’s routes of oil and gas imports from Africa and the Middle East by thousands of kilometres, making Gwadar a potentially vital link in Chi’s supply chain, according to the agency. Khalid Mahmood, president of the Islamabad Council of World Affairs, said the economic corridor can bring in development and prosperity to both the countries. “It can help Chi get connected with the Gulf region, Africa, Europe and other parts of the world in an easier way and in a shorter time. Meanwhile, for Pakistan, it would mean more business and trade activities in the region. Pakistan will also become the centre of energy transmission from the Gulf,” Mahmood said.
Chi has implemented large-scale cooperation projects with Pakistan on electricity, new energy and has also promoted the port magement of Gwadar.
Syed Iftikhar Hussain Babar, secretary of the Pakistan Board of Investment, estimated that Chi’s investment in Gwadar Port, including highways connecting the port and eastern coastline of the port, bulwarks of the port, anchorage dredging, a free trade zone and the new Gwadar intertiol airport, would all be completed within three to five years. Moreover, the CPEC project is not confined to the Gwadar Port infrastructure construction. Chi is also aiming to upgrade the 1,300-km Karakoram highway, the highest paved intertiol road in the world, which connects Chi and Pakistan across the Karakoram Range, the report said. In addition to road and rail construction, the project also includes energy cooperation and investment programmes. Xi’s upcoming visit to Pakistan will lift the project to a new level, as Chi and Pakistan will sign extensive deals on energy, infrastructure, education and culture. This vision of the CPEC, once realised, will have a great strategic significance for the development of Chi, South Asia and Central Asia as well as for maintaining peace and stability in the region. “For Chi, the project with Pakistan links Chi’s strategy to develop its western region with Pakistan’s focus on boosting its economy,” said Ma Jiali, researcher with the Chi Institutes of Contemporary Intertiol Relations. The construction of the economic corridor will also help improve the security situation in the poverty-stricken province of Balochistan of Pakistan, which is in the front line of Islamabad’s war against terror. Moreover, when Gwadar Port is completed, it will become a crucial port for land-locked Central Asian countries, such as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and a transfer centre of those countries’ cargo transportation to countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq and other destitions. (IANS)