ISLAMABAD (Nov 2, 2018): Prime Minister Imran Khan reached China Thursday night on a four-day official visit– his first after forming his party’s government in August–in a first both at the Center and in majority of provinces.
Carrying a heavy agenda which also includes seeking aid, grant and loans from the country’s “all weather friend”, the premier is meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping today and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
The prime minister told Chinese journalists that he hoped the scale of Chinese partnership would help Pakistan bridge its current account deficit and build foreign exchange reserves. He said his government had been working on two paths, including an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and support from friendly countries.
He noted the assistance agreed to by Saudi Arabia, and said that China’s support would allow Pakistan to avoid a large IMF loan that may attract tough conditionalities which ultimately lead to inflation, squeeze the economy and put additional burden on the people.
— CPEC Official (@CPEC_Official) November 2, 2018
Besides a bailout package, enhancing bilateral ties and signing various agreements and MoUs in diverse fields, the premier also seeks to learn from China poverty alleviation and anti-corruption methods. “Corruption is the biggest enemy of Pakistan, we need special skills to track the white collar crime,” the premier said during an interaction with media persons before leaving for China.
He said lifting 700 million people out of poverty was a rare feat achieved by the Chinese, and he hoped to learn the methodologies used by the Chinese leadership to implement these policies.
“China’s expertise will help Pakistan to resolve the issues currently faced by the country”.
The premier will also meet the head of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and address the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai where Pakistan is exhibiting a wide range of export products–he will be a keynote speaker at the inauguration of the Expo, and will hold meetings with other world leaders on the sidelines of the event.
The visit comes as the two traditional allies’ (“iron brothers”) biggest and most important bilateral project–the multibillion dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor enters second phase. Observers say the CPEC –flagship of China’s global Belt and Road initiative is a game-changer not only for the two nations but for the region and beyond.
Pakistan and China are hoping to extend CPEC to Afghanistan and Iran in order to make it a platform of regional connectivity. Saudi Arabia has indicated its desire to invest in projects under CPEC.
Indicative of what important matters would be on the table for discussions is reflected in the team formation and those accompanying the premier: Minister of Finance Asad Umar, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtayar, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood, and resource-rich Balochistan province’s Chief Minister Jam Kamal–the deep-water Gwadar port in his province’s Arabian Sea shoreline is entry point of the corridor that will provide China the shortest land-and-sea passage to the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
During his speech at the first China-Pakistan private joint venture under CPEC, Chinese envoy to Islamabad H.E. Yao Jing said PM Khan’s visit to Beijing “would be historical”.
Jing said the agreements expected to be singed during the visit would help ease the bilateral trade-deficit. Beijing also plans to announce an unspecified financial “grant” for Pakistan to help it deal with a looming balance of payments crisis.
“We want to invest more in Pakistan and buy more from Pakistan. China’s capital, China’s technology and also China’s huge market could offer a bigger contribution towards Pakistan’s future development,” said the Chinese ambassador.
China looks forward to partnering with the new government’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ vision”. That includes investment and cooperation in agriculture, housing, technology transfer, manufacturing, and social welfare projects in all provinces.