Xi Jinping set to launch US$46 bln projects in Pakistan visit

April 17, 2015 11:35
President Xi Jinping is pushing closer commercial and defense ties with Pakistan with which China shares a remote border and longstanding mistrust of their increasingly powerful neighbor, India. Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping US$46 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects during his visit to Pakistan next week.

A long-awaited plan to sell Pakistan eight Chinese submarines is also being finalized, Reuters reported Friday.

The deal, reportedly worth between US$4 billion and US$5 billion, my be on tap during Xi's visit on Monday and Tuesday. 

Commercial and defense ties are drawing together the two countries which share a remote border and longstanding mistrust of their increasingly powerful neighbor, India, and many western nations.

"China treats us as a friend, an ally, a partner and above all an equal -- not how the Americans and others do," said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistan parliament's defense committee.

Pakistan and China often boast of being "iron brothers".

Two-way trade grew to US$10 billion last year from US$4 billion in 2007, Pakistani data shows.

Xi's trip is expected to focus on a Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, a planned US$46 billion network of roads, railways and energy projects linking Pakistan's deepwater Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China's far-western Xinjiang region.

It would shorten the route for China's energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime.

If the submarine deal is signed, China may also offer Pakistan concessions on building a refueling and mechanical station in Gwadar, a defense analyst said.

China's own submarines could use the station to extend their range in the Indian Ocean.

"China is thinking in terms of a maritime silk road now, something to connect the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean," said a Pakistani defense official, who declined to be identified.

For Pakistan, the corridor is a cheap way to develop its violence-plagued and poverty-stricken Baluchistan province, home to Gwadar.

China has promised to invest about US$34 billion in energy projects and nearly US$12 billion in infrastructure.

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