Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday arrived in Pakistan to launch projects linking the allies worth US$46 billion, a figure that would far exceed US spending in Pakistan and underscores China’s economic ambitions in Asia and beyond.
The infrastructure and energy projects are aimed at establishing a Pakistan-China “economic corridor” between Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and China’s western Xinjiang region.
The plan is part of China’s aim to forge “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe, and reflects a shift of economic power in the region to China, Pakistani Parliament defense committee chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed said.
“Pakistan, for China, is now of pivotal importance. This has to succeed and be seen to succeed,” he said.
The corridor, a network of roads, railways and pipelines, is to pass through Pakistan’s poor Baluchistan Province, where a long-running separatist insurgency, which the army has again vowed to crush, will raise doubts about the feasibility of the plan.
The security of Chinese workers is a prime concern for Xi. In talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and military leaders, Xi is also likely to raise China’s fears that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are teaming up with Pakistani militants.
“Our cooperation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously,” Xi said in a statement to media on the eve of his two-day visit.
Xi is expected to call for greater efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, where Pakistan is keen to restrict the influence of its rival, India.
China is set to provide up to US$37 billion in investment for the energy projects to generate 16,400 megawatts of power, Pakistani Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said.
Concessional loans are to cover nearly US$10 billion of infrastructure projects.
The US has given US$31 billion to Pakistan since 2002, according to the US Congressional Research Service. About two-thirds was earmarked for security.
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