BEIJING: Pakistan and China on Friday signed a bonanza of agreements, including one on a long-term economic corridor, capping a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in the Chinese capital.
The 2,000-kilometre road and rail link connecting the northwestern city of Kashgar to Gwadar port was among eight pacts inked by the two countries. The corridor is expected to cost around $18 billion. Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal inked the pact from the Pakistani side while the chairman of the National Development and Reforms Commission signed it from the Chinese side, as Premier Li reiterated his country’s strategic interest in the project.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) pertaining to the Lahore-Karachi Motorway was signed on Friday as well, following which Prime Minister Nawaz ordered concerned departments to complete the project within two-and-a-half years.
Talking to PTV after the signing ceremony, the premier said the authorities will have to finalise the project’s feasibility study within three months. He made it clear, however, that the government would not allow any compromise on quality.
“Once this project is completed, travel time [between Lahore and Karachi] will be drastically reduced … this will ultimately promote business activity in the region,” Nawaz maintained, adding that all four provinces would benefit from it. He added that the Lahore-Karachi Motorway would be connected to the Kashgar-Gwadar highway as well. Other agreements signed on Friday included a pact on economic and technical cooperation between the two countries – signed by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi – and two letters of exchange regarding training courses for textiles, flood relief and disaster management, and the provision of equipment for eradicating polio from Pakistan.
An MoU was also signed for cooperation and exchanges between PML-N and the Communist Party of China. Fatemi, meanwhile, inked another MoU for cooperation between Pakistan’s Institute of Strategic Studies and the China Institute of Contemporary Study. The two countries also reached a $44 million agreement on setting a fibre-optic cable from the China-Pakistan border to Rawalpindi. The document was signed by Strategic Communication Organisation of Pakistan and Huawei Technologies Company.
Punjab Energy Minister Sher Ali Khan and the chief of ZTE Corporation signed an MoU on a solar energy project as well.
Meanwhile, the Chinese company tasked with the construction of the stalled Nandipur power plant has agreed to resume work on the project. According to a news channel, the Chinese company has decided to send its engineers to Pakistan in this regard, following a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Shahbaz, who is part of Prime Minister Nawaz’s delegation, assured the company’s officials of his government’s full support.
Separately, in a meeting with the president of China Overseas Port Holding Company, Nawaz expressed his desire to develop Gwadar port on the Hong Kong model.
Nawaz’s meeting with Li
Nawaz and Li on Friday resolved to promote polices to advance the cause of peace, cooperation and harmony in the region.
In a joint statement issued after their one-on-one meeting, the two leaders reiterated their commitment to ‘people-centric’ policies aimed at mitigating poverty, promoting social and economic development, and diminishing the roots of conflict.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz once again reaffirmed his government’s commitment to deepening the bilateral relations between Pakistan and China. The Chinese leader appreciated his decision to choose China as his first foreign destination after being elected premier.
The two sides reviewed the development of Pakistan-China relations and observed they had acquired growing strategic significance. Premier Nawaz and Premier Li noted that Asia was the engine of global economic growth and major urbanisation and technological advancement was underway in the region.
Earlier, upon his arrival at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Prime Minister Nawaz received a rousing red carpet welcome from Premier Li. He said his welcome reminded him of ‘the saying, our friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea in the world, and sweeter than honey’.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2013.