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China to 'firmly move forward' on infrastructure projects

Updated November 03, 2018

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Prime Minister Imran Khan and China's Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. — AFP
Prime Minister Imran Khan and China's Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. — AFP

China has agreed to “firmly move forward” on various infrastructure projects in Pakistan following a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, on Saturday.

The agreement follows concerns that Islamabad's spiralling financial crisis could lead Beijing to scale back its projects in the country, where it is helping to build the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Project (CPEC).

The project is at the heart of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious, globe-spanning trade and infrastructure programme.

The massive undertaking has drawn both praise and criticism from around the world, with some saying the initiative is filling a critical funding gap in the developing world, while others fear the Chinese loans financing the work are designed to entrap their recipients in debt.

In Pakistan, Belt-and-Road-linked projects have come in for heavy criticism for their opaque lending terms, with some arguing that Beijing's largesse may worsen Islamabad's fiscal dilemma.

But both Pakistan and China played down those concerns on Saturday, describing the programme as a key part of Islamabad's recovery plans.

In his meeting with Li, Khan invited the Chinese premier to visit Pakistan and see for himself the difference the mega-project has made in the country.

“CPEC in 2013 was just an idea. Now it is on the ground. And it has caught the imagination of the people of Pakistan,” he said.

“We feel that this a great opportunity for our country to progress, to attract investment. It gives us an opportunity to raise our standard of living, growth rate.”

Li praised the relationship, saying “China and Pakistan are all-weather partners".

"Pakistan has always been regarded as a foreign policy priority by China."

15 MoUs signed between China and Pakistan

About 15 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for cooperation between China and Pakistan in multiple fields were signed in Beijing by officials of both countries, RadioPak reported.

Prime Minister Khan and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang overlooked the signing ceremony, that was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Both countries pledged to cooperate in various fields, including forestry, earth sciences, agriculture as well as in the industrial sector.

The neighbouring countries also agreed to work together to alleviate poverty in Pakistan as well as to ensure the provision of technical training to potential labour.

The Chinese Academy of Science also signed MoUs with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and Pakistan Meteorological Department.