Beijing: Pakistan and China signed here on Wednesday five agreements for building a new airport and upgrading the Karakoram Highway as part of efforts to develop an economic corridor through rugged mountains and regions torn by insurgent violence.
The signing of the accords in the fields of economy and trade, regional connectivity, energy and people-to-people contacts followed a meeting between President Mamnoon Hussain and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
“Friendship with China is the most important pillar of our foreign policy and security policy,” Mr Hussain said in brief comments at the start of their meeting, followed by delegation-level talks at the Great Hall of the People.
Xi Jinping said: “The Chinese people cherish a profound friendship with the people of Pakistan.”
The planned economic corridor will incorporate a 2,000-kilometre transport link between Kashgar in northwestern China to the little-used Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran. That could at some point include a railway and oil pipeline.
The project received a major boost when control of Gwadar port was transferred to state-owned China Overseas Ports Holding Company Ltd in February last year.
Built by Chinese workers and opened in 2007, Gwadar is undergoing a major expansion to turn it into a full-fledged, deep-water commercial port.
The two sides last year already agreed to build a fibre-optic cable to be laid from the Chinese border to Rawalpindi which will boost Pakistan’s access to international communication networks. China is to provide 85 per cent of the financing for the three-year project’s $44 million budget, with Pakistan covering the rest.
If the corridor project takes off, oil from the Middle East could be offloaded at Gwadar, which is located just outside the mouth of the Gulf, and transported to China through Balochistan and over the towering Karakoram mountains. Such a link would vastly cut the 12,000km route that Mideast oil supplies must now take to reach Chinese ports.
During his meeting with President Xi, President Mamnoon Hussain said the China-Pakistan economic corridor would prove to be a game-changer in transforming the whole region by generating massive trade and economic activity and opening new vistas of progress and prosperity for the people of the two countries and about three billion people of the region.
The two presidents discussed a whole gamut of bilateral relations and regional and global issues of mutual interest. They expressed satisfaction over the current status of bilateral ties, but stressed the need for more consistent efforts to boost trade from the current $12 billion to the level commensurate to the huge trade and investment potential existing between them.
Underscoring the importance of greater connectivity between the two countries and the region at large, they called for expeditious completion of all projects of the economic corridor which they said would turn the entire region into a vibrant trade, energy and economic corridor, besides taking Pak-China trade to new heights.
They expressed the hope that decisions taken during the meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee would prove instrumental in implementation of the already identified and mutually agreed projects of the economic corridor on a fast track basis.
The two leaders agreed on further enhancing cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, defence, infrastructure development and people-to-people contacts.
President Hussain lauded the unwavering support and assistance of the government and people of China to Pakistan in its socio-economic development and expressed the hope that it would continue for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
He said Pakistan wanted to benefit from Chinese expertise in the fields of energy, irrigation, agriculture, infrastructure, communications and commerce and trade.
He invited President Xi Jinping to visit Pakistan this year and said the visit would add a new chapter to bilateral relations and provide great impetus to further deepen strategic partnership. The Chinese president accepted the invitation.