Pak PM to visit China next week to 'jointly draw a blueprint' for bilateral growth, launch 2nd phase of CPEC

Sharif will be in China from June 4 to 8 on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at her weekly briefing in Islamabad on Friday.
Pak PM to visit China next week
Pak PM to visit China next week

Islamabad/Beijing | Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will embark on a five-day visit to China on Tuesday during which he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and “jointly draw a blueprint” to strengthen bilateral ties further, as the all-weather allies seek to upgrade cooperation under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Sharif will be in China from June 4 to 8 on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at her weekly briefing in Islamabad on Friday.

The visit aims to increase cooperation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, as the two sides look forward to launching the project's second phase.

The CPEC was launched a decade ago, and several energy and infrastructure projects had already been completed.

During his visit to China, Prime Minister Sharif will hold talks with President Xi and “jointly draw a blueprint” for the growth of China-Pakistan relations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in Beijing.

This will be Sharif's first visit to China after he took over as prime minister for the second term after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party-led coalition government came to power in March.

During his visit, Sharif will also hold in-depth exchanges with Premier Li Qiang and other officials on China-Pakistan relations and issues of mutual interest, Mao told a media briefing.

“China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners and iron-clad friends. Our friendship stood the test of time and remains rock solid, steady as Mount Tai,” she said.

Mt Taishan, also known as Mt Tai, is a famous mountain in China's Shandong province.

In addition to Beijing, Sharif, 72, will visit Guangdong and Shaanxi provinces.

Mao said the two countries had close high-level exchanges in recent years and steadily advanced practical cooperation conducted fruitful and “high-quality cooperation” of CPEC. The two sides also have maintained sound communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, she said.

India firmly opposes the CPEC, which will link Xinjiang in China and the Gwadar port in Pakistan, because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China's ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments across the world.

"China stands ready to work with Pakistan through this visit to make greater progress in our all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and take new steps to build an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era," Mao said.

Sharif's visit to Beijing, which is always a first stop for Pakistani leaders after taking over power, is taking place as Pakistan is facing a severe economic crisis with foreign exchange reserves continuing to remain at a low level. China is bankrolling Pakistan to maintain the balance of payments with periodic loans to maintain the requisite forex reserves.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif chaired a meeting in Islamabad on Friday on his upcoming China visit directed to prepare an action plan to encourage Chinese companies to set up industries in Pakistan, assuring that Pakistan will provide all possible facilities to Chinese industrialists and investors.

Radio Pakistan reported that a detailed briefing was given to the Prime Minister on the preparations for his visit to China, during which a delegation of industrialists, investors and entrepreneurs from Pakistan will also accompany him during his visit to Chinese city Shenzhen.

The delegation will meet the Chinese business community and discuss the promotion of business-to-business relations between the two countries.

The Prime Minister directed to formulate a comprehensive plan regarding productive business-to-business meetings between the two countries during his visit to China. He also directed the Pakistani Ambassador to China to provide all possible facilities to the Pakistani business delegation in China.

Ahead of Sharif's upcoming visit to China, Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar visited Beijing earlier this month and held the fifth strategic dialogue with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

During his talks with Dar, Wang expressed concern over frequent terrorist attacks on Chinese personnel in Pakistan and asked Islamabad to do its utmost to protect them and eliminate the worries of Chinese enterprises and personnel.

The recurring attacks on Chinese nationals working in CPEC projects by militant groups in Pakistan have become a major concern for China. Hundreds of Chinese nations are working on scores of CPEC projects in Pakistan.

In March, five Chinese engineers working at the Dasu hydropower project undertaken by a Chinese company in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and their Pakistani driver were killed when terrorists attacked their vehicle.

Pakistan said it has constituted a 12,000-strong para-military force to protect Chinese workers in the country.

Meanwhile, The Express Tribune newspaper reported that the Pakistan government has approved the construction of another road project under the CPEC at a cost of USD 2 billion, paving the way for the signing of its framework agreement during Prime Minister Sharif's visit to Beijing.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP), the body mandated to recommend mega schemes for higher forum approval, sanctioned the construction of the Thakot-Raikot 241-kilometer section of the Karakoram Highway, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Planning after the meeting.

The CDWP approved the project at a cost of Rs 567.5 billion (USD 2 billion), with the direction that the price tag should be further reduced by rationalising overhead expenses.

The Karakoram Highway was originally built with the help of China about 50 years ago, and due to the difficult terrain, scores of people died during the construction phase.

A fully functional all-weather Karakoram Highway is critical for China-Pakistan economic and commercial relations. This is the third major road infrastructure project both nations aim to build under CPEC, following the Multan-Sukkur motorway and the Havelian-Thakot section of the Karakoram Highway

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