Pakistan, China to step up energy, trade projects
Updated: 2014-02-17 08:56
By Pu Zhendong in Beijing and Chen Peng of Xinhua in Islamabad, Pakistan (China Daily)
Beijing and Islamabad will strengthen energy cooperation and speed up development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, said Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain on Saturday ahead of an upcoming visit to China.
In an interview with Chinese media, Hussain said he hoped to reach an agreement with the Chinese leadership on accelerating energy-related projects to overcome power shortages in his country.
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain
"The people of Pakistan will be grateful to the Chinese people and government for their help in the energy sector," he said.
Hussain also urged further implementation of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, a project that Premier Li Keqiang proposed to boost bilateral economic cooperation during his visit to Islamabad in May.
"The project is going to be a monument of the century. It will benefit not only Pakistan and China, but also the whole region with billions of people," Hussain said.
He will start a three-day state visit to China on Tuesday at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. It marks Hussain's first overseas official visit since assuming office in September.
He will also be the first foreign head of state to visit China after Spring Festival.
President Xi will hold talks with Hussain after a welcoming ceremony. Premier Li and Chairman Zhang Dejiang of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress will hold separate talks with the visiting president.
The two sides will also issue a joint statement, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Stating that the development of China-Pakistan relations was "at the top of China's diplomatic agenda", ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that Beijing is satisfied with the state of China-Pakistan relations, and she expressed full confidence in the prospect of friendly cooperation between the two countries.
"Chinese netizens refer to Pakistan as ‘Iron Pak', a term testifying to the strength of China-Pakistan friendship," Hua said at the daily news conference.
Hu Shisheng, a South Asian studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Hussain's choice of China for his first overseas visit illustrates the close bonds between Beijing and Islamabad.
"Hussain will meet Xi for the first time, and the two will exchange views on a broad range of issues," Hu said. "Frequent high-level visits are one characteristic of bilateral amicability."
Experts said that the corridor project, spearheaded by cooperation on energy, will connect China with Pakistan, increasing links also with Central Asia and East Europe, and benefit as many as 3 billion people.
Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute, a non-governmental think tank promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, is optimistic about the international reach of the project.
"The economic corridor will play a crucial role in regional integration of the ‘Greater South Asia', which includes China, Iran, Afghanistan, and stretches all the way to Myanmar. These countries will connect through cooperation in energy and the economy," he said.
"There are infinite opportunities for Pakistan's entrepreneurs to reap the fruits of the changing regional contexts, initiated by China's projects, such as the economic corridor and the Silk Road Economic Belt," Hussain said.
China shares a 600-kilometer border with Pakistan. The economic corridor, which connects Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to the port of Gwadar in Southwest Pakistan, was proposed in May during Li's visit to Islamabad.
Calling the corridor a strategic project for the next 10 to 20 years, Hu said the two countries will have to establish a series of support facilities to stimulate the full functioning of the corridor.
"Through this channel, more Chinese investment will be brought in to Pakistan's energy sector, and to a certain degree it will alleviate the country's power shortage," Hu said. "China is also looking for a recovery in Pakistan's economy, to fully develop its strategic value."
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