Xi's visit to Pakistan will boost Silk Road projects

Updated: 2015-04-20 04:15

By Zhao Shengnan in Beijing and Zhao Yanrong in Islamabad (China Daily)

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Cooperative agreements will help to link western regions with port on Arabian Sea

Xi's visit to Pakistan will boost Silk Road projects

President Xi Jinping arrived in Islamabad on Monday for his first state visit to Pakistan, a long-awaited trip that is expected to yield multibillion-dollar cooperation agreements that mark a key step of the China-championed Silk Road initiatives.

Agreements, including those on energy and infrastructure cooperation, are expected to particularly bolster construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a planned network connecting Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

"The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is located where the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road meet. It is, therefore, a major project of the 'Belt and Road' initiative," Xi said in an article published in Pakistan's Daily Times on Sunday.

"We need to form a '1+4' cooperation structure with the Economic Corridor at the center, and Gwadar Port, energy, infrastructure and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to drive development across Pakistan and deliver tangible benefits to its people," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to Pakistan in nine years, came after China started operating a $40 billion Silk Road fund and recently drew a wave of participants to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The Foreign Ministry said last week that a lot of money is needed for the corridor and China is willing to provide financing support to Pakistan.

Observers said the huge corridor project would be a hub of the "Belt and Road" initiative, a transcontinental network prioritizing connectivity and infrastructure, and would vitalize Pakistan's development and western China's opening-up.

Masood Khan, director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, said the project is "a watershed" and "a game-changer" not just for Pakistan and China but for their immediate and extended neighborhoods.

The former Pakistani ambassador to China considered Gwadar port, a "key for the economic hub which we are trying to create in Pakistan" and said "it should have all the necessary infrastructure to handle the shipment of merchandise and services".

Lu Shulin, former Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, said the port, about 400 kilometers from the Strait of Hormuz, could improve Pakistan's role in the region, and could give access to the sea for neighboring landlocked countries like Afghanistan.

If the port linked western China with rail it would reduce export costs from China's far-western region, which is remote from ports on China's northern and eastern coastal areas, said Lu, adding it will also diversify shipping lanes for energy exported from the Middle East to China.

The economic corridor would shorten the route for China's energy imports, bypassing the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, Reuters reported.

After Pakistan, Xi will visit Indonesia, also a key stop along the "Belt and Road" initiatives, to attend the Asian-African Summit and activities marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference, from Tuesday to Friday.

Contact the writers through zhao-shengnan@chinadaily.com.cn



Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan and attend the Asian-African Summit and activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Indonesia from April 20 to 24.

April 22
Attend the opening ceremony of the Asian-African Summit;
Meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo;

April 23
Bilateral meetings;
Attend the closing ceremony of the Asian-African Summit;

April 24
Historical walk from Savoy Homann Hotel to Gedung Merdeka;
Attend activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference;