Date
18 January 2017
President Xi Jinping (right) and  Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meet in Islamabad at the start of the Chinese leader's first state visit  to the country. Photo: Reuters
President Xi Jinping (right) and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meet in Islamabad at the start of the Chinese leader's first state visit to the country. Photo: Reuters

Xi unveils US$28 bln infrastructure projects in Pakistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched US$28 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Pakistan, highlighting the start of a visit meant to showcase deepening ties between the two countries.

Xi arrived Monday on his first state visit to the country and unveiled a massive infrastructure development program known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday

Xi finalized agreements or broke ground on US$28 billion of advance projects out of a US$46 billion package, ranging from upgrading Pakistan’s railways to building power plants, the report said, citing Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s planning minister.

“This is to show the seriousness—the reality—of the economic corridor,” Iqbal said.

At a ceremony in Islamabad, the two sides signed 51 agreements.

From the capital, Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also performed a remote grounding breaking, via video link to the sites, on five projects including a US$1.4 billion dam close to Islamabad that will deliver 720 megawatts of electricity and adding 900 megawatts to a solar power park at Bahawalpur, in the center of the country, for US$1.5 billion.

“Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy,” Sharif said after the ceremony. “Today, we have planned for the future.”

The program is not structured as traditional development aid.

Chinese companies will carry out the work which will be financed through either Chinese investment or concessional loans.

“I feel satisfied with the rich deliverables of the visit,” Xi said, according to a translation provided by Pakistani state television.

“The building of the China-Pakistan corridor concerns, and has a bearing on, the national strategy [and] livelihoods of the two countries and their long-term development.”

The proposed economic corridor will connect the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang with the Pakistani port of Gwadar through a network of roads, and provide Pakistan with much-needed economic infrastructure, especially power-generation plants.

Pakistan’s acute electricity shortage leads to hours of daily scheduled power cuts to homes and businesses, holding back economic growth.

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