Pakistan and China have flourishing ties and these ties have been moving towards the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to achieve mutual prosperity. Partnership is the cornerstone of their friendship. With these expanding postures, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi took a three day-long visit to Islamabad. China and Pakistan could unleash great benefits under CPEC. The project has created 1.2 percent of Pakistan’s growth.
The CPEC projects create benefits to Pakistan economy and have the potential to create a huge number of jobs in Pakistan. Over twenty-two operational CPEC projects, of which nine have been completed, triggered investment worth US$19 billion so far. There is need to work more on the socio-economic projects of the corridor as was mentioned by the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Both sides identified around ten more areas of mutual cooperation.
Yi also conveyed his intention to continue to work with the new government of Imran Khan. Terming Pakistan a good friend, Yi highlighted that China and Pakistan were tied closely with strategic partnership based upon mutual support and understanding. Referring to proverbial term ‘Iron Brothers’, he said their friendship always stood tests of time and international changes, as it was strong and unbreakable, deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of the two countries.
Pakistan is willing to cooperate with China regarding the CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There is no bar from the government side not to cooperate with the CPEC. Discussions with the Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa centred on the cooperation in Afghanistan and related security concerns of the both sides. Yi lauded Pakistani efforts toward eliminating terrorism from the grassroot level.
This is the first visit by a Chinese Foreign Minister after government was formed by Imran Khan. Diplomatically, Pakistan is becoming significant after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the country and held discussions on all important subjects. With Yi’s visit ties have further expanded and it is hoped that Pakistan would overcome the political drama being staged at Kabul and other parts of the world.
Both sides agreed upon a ten-pint agenda to deepen mutual ties. These include: deepen strategic mutual trust and strengthen strategic communication, move forward with the construction of the CPEC, balanced bilateral trade development, engage with each other in industrial capacity cooperation, enhance cooperation with a focus on people’s livelihood, reinforce defines and security cooperation, strengthen exchanges on the experience of governance, expand people-to-people exchanges, further cooperate in international and regional affairs, and push for the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership to reach a new height.
Wang also clarified that among the 22 projects within the framework of CPEC, 18 of them are directly invested or offered aid by the Chinese side, and only four of them use China’s concessional loan. Therefore, it’s clear that CPEC projects did not increase Pakistan’s debt burden. On the contrary, these projects will release their economic benefits and bring remarkable economic returns to the Pakistani side.
Those forces that were creating doubts about the CPEC must be doomed. They were thinking once the PTI government would be formed most of CPEC’s projects would be stopped. The good point is that the PTI government has been welcoming these projects in letter and spirit as they complement the national agenda of development and good relations with China at all costs. Yi’s meeting both with Foreign Minister Qureshi and the Army Chief Bajwa assured these trends.
Out of Pakistan’s more than US$ 69 billion foreign debt, Beijing’s share is about US$ 8.4 billion, including US$ 6 billion in CPEC loans, according to figures Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar shared with the parliament earlier this month. The total interest due by 2022 will be about US$ 1 billion.
Yi’s visit has removed doubt prevailing in the last several months about CPEC projects. The case was even if all CPEC projects would be a safe investment or a risky one. Now they have found it out to be good project to alleviate the economy of Pakistan. Second there is no question of debt burden on the economy of Pakistan and it needs to sincerely work on it. Third, CPEC has not decreased the value of Pakistan. Rather Pakistan’s significance under the BRI has increased manifolds and showing its capacity to further absorb foreign loans.
This is the first high-several interaction between the leaders of Pakistan and China after the polls in July and it seems that Yi has achieved his entire objective necessary for this visit. The all-weather friendship has achieved another milestone. Ties with Beijing have deepened but have remained in shambles with Washington. This is the crux of the problem. As such, Pakistan would be moving faster toward Beijing in coming years.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.