China's President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan today, where he is expected to announce investments worth $46 billion in that country.
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|Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif(l) welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping / Image:CapitalTV || |
The focus of the spending is on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the two nations. This will run some 3,000km from Gwadar in Pakistan to China's western Xinjiang region.
The projects will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
This marks a major advance in China's plans to boost its economic influence in Central and South Asia, and far exceeds US spending in Pakistan.
From India's perspective, it also sees the territorially aggressive China stealing yet another march in the neighbourhood; it now outweighs India across the sub-continent from Tibet to Myanmar to Sri Lanka to Pakistan.
"Pakistan, for China, is now of pivotal importance. This has to succeed and be seen to succeed," Reuters quoted Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistani parliament's defence committee, as saying.
Pakistan, for its part, hopes the investment will boost its struggling economy and help end chronic power shortages.
Leaders are also expected to discuss co-operation on security.
Xi will spend two days holding talks with his counterpart Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other ministers. He will address parliament on Tuesday.
Deals worth some $28 billion are ready to be signed during the visit, with the rest to follow.
Under the CPEC plan, China's government and banks will lend to Chinese companies, so they can invest in projects as commercial ventures.
A network of roads, railways and energy developments will eventually stretch some 3,000km (1,865 miles).
Some $15.5 billion worth of coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects will come online by 2017 and add 10,400 megawatts of energy to Pakistan's national grid, according to officials.
A $44 million optical fibre cable between the two countries is also due to be built.
Pakistan hopes the investment will enable it to transform itself into a regional economic hub.
Ahsan Iqbal, the Pakistani minister overseeing the plan, told AFP news agency that these were "very substantial and tangible projects which will have a significant transformative effect on Pakistan's economy".
Xi is also expected to discuss security issues with Sharif, including China's concerns that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are linking up with Pakistani militants.
"China and Pakistan need to align security concerns more closely to strengthen security co-operation," he said in a statement to Pakistani media on Sunday.
"Our co-operation in the security and economic fields reinforce each other, and they must be advanced simultaneously."