Economic corridor tops agenda

By ZHANG YUNBI in Islamabad | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-01 02:19

Sharif pushes cooperation, pledges improved security in Pakistan

Pakistan's government will increase the pace of its economic cooperation with China, especially through a planned economic corridor between the countries, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Saturday.

Sharif was interviewed by several Chinese media outlets ahead of his July 8 visit to China, for his first foreign visit since taking office. "That shows how close we are," he said.

Sharif, who was previously elected prime minister in 1990 and again in 1997, took office in early June .

As president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, he has been a frequent visitor to China, and believes China is "the most reliable friend" of Pakistan.

He said he would focus on bilateral economic cooperation during his China visit, with the Pakistan-China economic corridor project the most important topic.

Pakistan had agreed to build a road and rail network connecting Kashgar in China's Xinjiang region to the southwestern Pakistani port Gwadar, which Sharif said is now "the most important" item on the bilateral economic cooperation agenda.

Building the economic corridor between China and Pakistan was highlighted as a major agreement between both countries when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the neighboring country in late May and met with Sharif before the latter was formally sworn in.

It is a project that will "change the fate" of the region, said Sharif.

"Now the management of Gwadar has been handed over to China and we expect that Gwadar is ready to become a very important economic hub and an important Arabian Sea port. China will benefit from it a lot, as will Pakistan," he said.

Speculation by Western countries and their media has run high after the Gwadar port was established and transferred to Chinese management in February.

Accusations have alleged China will use the Gwadar port as a military outpost, affecting navigational freedom, although it has been clarified as for civil purposes.

"We do not have to worry much about accusations, especially false accusations. We are dedicated to our goals and objectives, " Sharif said.

The economic corridor will greatly lift bilateral trade, he said, and offer opportunities to businesses in both countries.

"The economic corridor will not only benefit the central west region of China, but also Pakistan and the whole South Asian region," Sharif said.

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