The main reason behind China’s ‘easy-going’ ties with Pakistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC project is very dear to Beijing due to its link with the Belt and Road Initiative.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that China and Pakistan will work together to develop conditions for early implementation of the upgradation of the Main Line-1 (ML-1) and the Karachi Circular Railway project, The Hong Kong Post reported citing state media.
Xi Jinping intends to make “CPEC an exemplar of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation,” The Hong Kong Post reported citing a state media report. Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Beijing to congratulate Chinese President Xi Jinping on securing a third term in power at the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
During his visit to China, Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif had to explain the progress of the CPEC project to Xi Jinping. Xi called it “important” to accelerate the construction of auxiliary infrastructure for Gwadar Port to showcase its role in pushing interconnected development in the region, The Hong Kong Post cited state media report.
Chinese President said that Pakistan is welcome to export more agri-products to China and expressed Beijing’s willingness to work with Islamabad to enhance cooperation in different sectors, including digital economy, e-commerce, and photovoltaic and other new-energy technologies.
Xi stated that both sides can take measures to enhance cooperation in agriculture, science, technology and people’s livelihood. Notably, the CPEC agreement was signed when PML(N) supremo Nawaz Sharif was Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Xi Jinping said, “China views its relations with Pakistan from a strategic and long-term perspective, and Pakistan has always been a high priority in China’s neighbourhood diplomacy,” The Hong Kong Post cited state media’s recent report.
Chinese President stated that Beijing is willing to work with Pakistan to enhance strategic cooperation, elevate efforts to develop the China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era and push new impetus into their “all-weather strategic partnership.” Considering the incumbent Pakistan government’s positive response regarding China’s projects, Beijing is making efforts to help Islamabad as much as possible.
Xi Jinping said that China will continue to work for supporting Pakistan over the country’s financial situation. Notably, China was satisfied with the progress of the project until cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan became Pakistan’s Prime Minister. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government was not overtly interested in the CPEC project and they even criticized it several times.
Beijing expects to use its influence along the land and maritime ‘silk routes’ between China and Europe. For the project, the land route goes through the Himalayan region close to the international border with China while the maritime route passes through the Indian Ocean region.
The CPEC project worth USD 42 billion was stuck due to internal problems in Pakistan. The lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 resulted in logistical problems. Later, Beijing’s financial issues caused fiscal bottlenecks.
A change in the Pakistani government further impacted the progress of CPEC. Several projects planned under the CPEC have been affected due to opposition by local residents. The projects were further affected when some Chinese nationals were killed in Pakistan.
As per the report, Xi Jinping said that he is “highly concerned” about the safety of Chinese people in Pakistan and hoped that Islamabad will provide a “safe environment” for Chinese institutions and personnel.