Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Monday in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, for a two-day trip in which he is expected to announce $46 billion worth of investment projects in energy and infrastructure projects.
Both countries are focused on a proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. 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 wider vision to revive the ancient Silk Road, and join Asia to Europe via road and sea links, in an effort to bring back the glory of China from the times of the Han Dynasty.
Sartaj Aziz, economic adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said he hopes the new investment will give his country’s dwindling economy a much needed boost.
“This investment over an eight- to 10-year period of $4 billion a year, would certainly step up the investment rate, GDP ration as well as growth rate, which has somehow stagnated between 3 and 4 percent for the last seven, eight years,” Aziz said.
However, security concerns and instability in Afghanistan will also be on the agenda.
A separatist insurgency in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province and Islamist militancy elsewhere have hampered development.
Xi’s trip, originally scheduled for last year, was postponed due to security concerns resulting from an anti-government protest.
China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Sun Weidong, said during an interview with Chinese state television his country has established a joint agreement with Pakistan to protect their interests.
Sun also said that Pakistan will set up a special security force to protect Chinese personnel and ensure smooth implementation of the projects linked to the economic corridor.
President Xi, during his visit, is expected to discuss Chinese concerns that Muslim separatists in China's western Xinjiang region may be getting training and support from militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.
The Chinese leader will meet with Pakistan's military leadership. That meeting is expected to include a briefing on the progress of Pakistani military operations in the tribal region.
They are also likely to discuss the stabilization of neighboring Afghanistan, as China is concerned that continuing violence in Afghanistan can hinder plans for the economic future of the region.
Meanwhile, for several days before Xi’s arrival, Pakistan’s state TV ran anthems aggrandizing Pakistan’s friendship with China. As soon as the Chinese president entered Pakistan’s airspace, he received an escort of six fighter jets from the Pakistan Air Force.
On his way from the airport, Xi was greeted with his own giant images, plastered on banners and posters all over Islamabad. Chinese and Pakistani flags hung side by sie from lampposts.
During his visit, Xi will receive Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the “Nishan-e-Pakistan,” and address a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament.
Pakistan often calls China its “all-weather” friend, as opposed to the United States, which is often accused of having a relationship with Pakistan based on individual issues and transactions.
Xi is accompanied by first lady Madam Peng Liyuan, senior ministers and Communist Party officials, as well as CEOs of various Chinese companies.