China on Wednesday assured Pakistan of its continued support to the country’s sustainable economic and strategic projects, including expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Main Line-1 (ML-1) rail track besides an additional assistance package of RMB 500 million for the country’s flood-relief efforts.
A joint statement was issued after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Beijing where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Le Keqiang and other senior leaders who spoke about a range of issues covering CPEC, trade and commercial ties, regional and other international issues.
It was the first visit by the prime minister to Beijing since he took charge in April. Pakistan had high hopes from the trip that took over six months to materialise. Given Pakistan’s precarious economic situation, the government was hoping to get some financial assistance from China besides accelerating the CPEC.
While the joint statement did not mention that China would consider Pakistan’s request for restructuring of $6.3 billion debt, the two sides agreed to build on the consensus on ML-1, a key strategic project of CPEC, for its earlier implementation.
According to the Prime Minister Office (PMO), Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang made commitments during separate meetings with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the People’s Great Hall in Beijing.
The two sides signed and concluded a number of agreements covering bilateral cooperation in the areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural products, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property, infrastructure, flood relief, post-disaster reconstruction, GDI, animal disease control, livelihood, cultural cooperation, space, geosciences as well as law enforcement and security.
With this, Prime Minister Sharif concluded his two-day maiden visit to China and returned back to the country on Wednesday night.
During his meeting with President Xi, the two leaders, reaffirming their mutual commitment to the CPEC, agreed that as a project of strategic importance, both countries would make joint efforts to “launch ML-1 as an early harvest project under the CPEC framework”.
They also acknowledged the need for a mass-transit project in Karachi, and agreed to finalize all formalities for the early launch of the Karachi Circular Railway.
Mr Sharif congratulated President Xi on his reelection as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China at its 20th Central Committee. He also thanked him for China’s invaluable assistance to Pakistan’s relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the wake of the devastation caused by super floods in the country.
The two leaders reviewed the progress in Sino-Pak bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.
They reaffirmed their commitment to the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries that has withstood the test of time. The two nations have stood firmly side by side in realizing their shared vision of peace, stability, development and prosperity.
Prime Minister Sharif strongly emphasised that Pakistan-China friendship enjoyed complete consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan and was a model of inter-state relations.
Paying tribute to President Xi’s leadership for China’s prosperity and his vision for strengthening bilateral relationship, the prime minister said Pakistan drew inspiration from China’s socio-economic development and national resolve to the country’s progress and prosperity.
The two leaders discussed cooperation across a range of issues, including defence, trade and investment, agriculture, health, education, green energy, science and technology, and disaster preparedness.
They also exchanged views on the rapid transformation in the international environment, which had exacerbated economic challenges for developing countries. They affirmed their shared belief in dialogue and cooperation based on equality and mutual benefit as critical for global peace and prosperity.
They agreed that contemporary challenges like climate change, health pandemics, and growing inequalities needed unqualified cooperation among states, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
Prime Minister Sharif and President Xi also discussed regional issues, including the situation in India-held Kashmir and Afghanistan. They acknowledged that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan would promote regional security and economic development, and agreed that CPEC’s extension to Kabul would strengthen regional connectivity initiatives.
The prime minister also extended an invitation to President Xi for visiting Pakistan at an early date, which the latter accepted graciously.
Meeting with PM Li Keqiang
PM Sharif and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, in a meeting, agreed to expand the CPEC besides ensuring early completion of the corridor-related projects. The PM was warmly received by Premier Keqiang at the People’s Great Hall where he was given a guard of honour.
The two sides also held delegation-level talks headed by the respective leaders.
PM Sharif also met chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Li Zhanshu, and discussed bilateral matters and mutual cooperation.
The PM also met leading Chinese companies that expressed keen interest in investing in Pakistan’s solar, water and other infrastructure projects.
Speaking on the occasion, the prime minister invited Chinese corporate heads to visit Pakistan and invest in the government’s comprehensive solar power project aimed at generating 10,000 megawatts of electricity, the PMO said. He also encouraged Chinese investment in Pakistan’s alternative energy resources, including wind turbine power plants.
Mr Sharif stressed early completion of the infrastructure of Gwadar International Airport, which the Chinese companies assured would be completed by early next year.
Moreover, in a meeting with Chinese investors and businessmen, PM Sharif claimed the government since assuming power in April had resolved several issues pertaining to businesses and paid them pending dues of Rs160 billion. He further said a revolving fund had been established by the State Bank of Pakistan on the directives of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar with seed money of Rs50bn.
He vowed to address on priority the issues relating to land acquisition for construction of Diamer Basha Dam and other hurdles in the way of completing Mohmand Dam.
Shehbaz also assured that foolproof security would be provided to Chinese personnel working in Pakistan, and said across-the-board security would be ensured for those deputed on CPEC.
To address water shortage in Karachi, the premier said the federal government along with the Sindh government was ready to collaborate with Chinese companies.
Later, in a joint statement, the Chinese side reiterated that relations with Pakistan would always be given the highest priority in its foreign policy. The Pakistani side underscored that the Pakistan-China relationship was the cornerstone of its foreign policy and that the Pakistani people always supported the close friendship between the two countries.
Pakistan also expressed its commitment to the One-China Policy and support on the issues of Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. The Chinese side reaffirmed its support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and promoting its socio-economic development and prosperity.