Islamabad: China today struck as many as 51 agreements with all-weather ally Pakistan, including the multi billion dollar economic corridor through the PoK that will expand the communist giant’s influence in India’s neighbourhood. Chinese President Xi Jinping formally unveiled the ambitious 3,000 km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during his historic maiden state visit to Islamabad. The strategic corridor – regarded as the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after Karakoram highway built in 1979 – will shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by about 12,000 kms.
The CPEC will link China’s underdeveloped far-western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea via PoK through a massive and complex network of roads, railways, business zones, energy schemes and pipelines. The corridor – expected to be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity – gives China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond. Pakistan and China signed a total of 51 agreements after Xi held talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Both the leaders witnessed the agreements signing ceremony.
Sharif welcomed Xi and referred to China as an “all- weather friend”. “There have been critical changes in China and Pakistan, and major regional and international development, but our ties have remained robust,” he said. Pakistan hopes the investment – the initial focus of which is on electricity – will end its chronic energy crisis and transform the country into a regional economic hub by stabilising its cash-strapped economy, that had forced it toseek loans from the World Bank and the IMF in the past. “This corridor will benefit all provinces and areas in Pakistan, and transform our country into a regional hub and pivot for commerce and investment… This corridor will become a symbol for peace and prosperity,” Sharif said.