China's president is in Islamabad for a two-day visit focusing on energy and infrastructure projects. In his meetings with top Pakistani leaders, he is also discussing militancy issues and Afghanistan.
A 21-gun salute and schoolchildren singing anthems praising Pakistan’s friendship with China began a day of red carpet treatments for the Chinese leader.
President Xi Jinping arrived in Islamabad accompanied by his wife, senior ministers and CEOs of Chinese companies. He met with Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, described the talks.
“Today we have decided to elevate our relationship to all weather strategic cooperative partnership,” said Sharif.
Sharif added the two countries, already close allies and strategic partners, will increase cooperation in energy and infrastructure sectors.
President Xi elaborated in his remarks through an interpreter.
“The two sides agreed that they will take the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as the center and priorities, and focus on the four areas of Gwadar port, the transportation infrastructure, energy, and industry cooperation to form a one-plus-four cooperation layout,” said Xi.
The corridor is a collection of roads, rail links and gas and oil pipelines going from Pakistan’s southern seaport of Gwadar to southwestern China.
It is part of China’s vision to revive the ancient Silk Road and join Asia to Europe via road and sea links.
The way forward, however, is plagued by security concerns on both sides. A separatist insurgency in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province and Islamist militancy elsewhere in the country have hampered development. Meanwhile, China is concerned Muslim separatists in its western Xinjiang region are receiving training and support from militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.
Pakistan has promised to create a special security force to protect Chinese personnel and ensure smooth implementation of projects linked to the corridor.
Pakistan’s military leadership apparently briefed the Chinese leader on its operation against militants in the northern areas. In his statement, President Xi encouraged them to continue.
“We support the Pakistani side to move forward its counterterrorism strategy in light of its own national conditions and are prepared and willing to continue to help Pakistan to strengthen its capacity to fight terrorism.”
He also encouraged Pakistan to help stabilize neighboring Afghanistan. China is concerned that continuing violence in Afghanistan could hinder plans for the economic future of the region.