PM Shehbaz, President Xi agree to upgrade CPEC, advance development in 2nd phase

Published June 7, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on June 7. — APP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on June 7. — APP

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed their consensus on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) high-quality development and the timely completion of major ongoing projects in a productive meeting on Friday.

The two leaders also affirmed their consensus on CPEC’s upgradation and advancing the mega project’s development in its second phase.

The developments came as the premier and his delegation’s five-day China visit nears its end. This is PM Shehbaz’s first visit to China following the February 8 general elections, and will likely see the inauguration of CPEC’s second phase.

The trip has led to a delay in the annual federal budget — usually presented in the first week of June — and is now expected to be presented on June 12, according to the government’s tentative plan.

The prime minister briefed President Xi on Pakistan’s policies for economic reforms, sustained growth, industrial development, agricultural modernisation, regional connectivity and the critical role played by CPEC in the country’s development.

He asserted Pakistan’s commitment to CPEC’s high-quality development and to fostering synergy between the development strategies of the two countries through close coordination.

The meeting between the two leaders was held at the historic Great Hall of the People. The two leaders were accompanied by federal ministers and senior officials. Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir was also a part of the delegation.

This was the first meeting of PM Shehbaz with President Xi since assuming office. The meeting was marked by “traditional warmth reflective of the ironclad friendship and close strategic ties between the two countries”, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister thanked President Xi for the warm and gracious welcome accorded to him and his delegation in China. He recalled the historic visit of President Xi to Pakistan in 2015 when CPEC was formally operationalised, marking a new chapter in their bilateral relationship.

The two leaders reaffirmed the time-honoured “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” and resolved to deepen cooperation across diverse domains ranging from political and security to economic, trade, and people-to-people exchanges.

They also exchanged views on regional and global developments, including Afghanistan, Palestine and South Asia, as well as the human rights situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The two sides reiterated their longstanding support for each other’s issues of core interest.

Commending President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Development Initiative, the prime minister underscored that as the flagship project of BRI, CPEC had significantly contributed to Pakistan’s socio-economic development.

He underlined Pakistan’s commitment and full support for the safety and security of the Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan.

He underlined that the government’s agenda for people-centric, socio-economic development resonated with the concept of “shared prosperity” embraced by China.

President Xi Jinping also hosted a banquet in honour of the prime minister where another round of discussion on different matters of mutual interests was held.

“China will, as always, firmly support Pakistan and safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi told PM Shehbaz, adding that the two countries’ “all-weather strategic partnership … had broad development prospects.”

Xi also said that China would help Pakistan with its economic and social development.

Xi told PM Shehbaz that their two countries should focus on “promoting the joint construction of CPEC” and Chinese and Pakistani firms 31 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) covering technology, agriculture, trade, energy, coal and gasification.

The Chinese leader also called on Shehbaz to step up efforts to ensure the security of Chinese projects in Pakistan.

Shehbaz, Chinese premier resolve to protect CPEC

Earlier, PM Shehbaz met Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing, where they resolved to protect CPEC “from its detractors and adversaries”, the Foreign Office (FO) said.

Addressing a weekly press briefing, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the two leaders held delegation-level talks this morning.

During the talks, premiers Shehbaz and Qiang “expressed their firm commitment to protect CPEC from its detractors and adversaries”, the FO spokesperson said.

They reiterated their unwavering support for each other on core issues and also reaffirmed their continued commitment to CPEC’s high-quality development and the timely completion of all ongoing projects, Zahra said.

According to the FO spokesperson, the two leaders asserted that the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership was “characterised by mutual trust, shared principles and strategic convergence”.

PM Shehbaz also reaffirmed Pakistan’s “unflinching resolve” to ensure the safety and security of Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan, Zahra said.

She further said the two nations agreed to maintain high-level exchanges, including “strengthening institutional linkages at all tiers and in all spheres of bilateral cooperation”.

“Pakistan and China will also continue to consult closely on issues of regional and global significance and multilateral fora, especially during the two-year tenure of Pakistan” as a non-member of the United Nations Security Council, the FO spokesperson said.

Zahra highlighted that 32 MoUs and agreements were also signed, which were aimed at “deepening cooperation in transport infrastructure, industry, energy, agriculture, media, health, water and socio-economic development” among other areas.

PM Shehbaz will later travel to the city of Xi’an where he will hold meetings with the provincial leadership and business leaders in agricultural and green energy sectors, she added.

As he arrived at the Great Hall of People in Beijing to meet with Qiang, the prime minister was presented with a Guard of Honour.

China trip

On Tuesday, PM Shehbaz and most of the federal cabinet members landed in China’s tech hub of Shenzhen as they embarked on their five-day trip to the neighbouring country to seek more investments.

The next day, the premier had empha­sised the need for business-to-business cooperation between the two nations and assured Chinese investors of all-out facilitation and foolproof security.

He had also invited technology giant Huawei to invest in Pakistan’s taxation and e-governance sectors besides enhancing its presence in the various Safe City projects operational across the country. The two nations also signed 32 MoUs to promote trade and investment.

A day ago, PM Shehbaz met potential Chinese investors, including the president of China’s Exim Bank to whom he assured that Pakistan was taking steps to improve governance, increase the tax net and ensure ease of doing business to attract foreign direct investment.

Speaking at the 4th Pakistan-China Friendship and Business Reception in Beijing later during the day, he asserted that Pakistan could become a “great nation” if it followed the Chinese development model, focusing on industrial and agricultural growth.

Apart from prominent business figures, the Pakistani delegation in­­cludes Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, Petroleum Minister Dr Musaddik Malik, Information and Broadcasting Minister Attaullah Tarar, Food Security Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain, Commerce Minis­ter Jam Kamal Khan, Privatisation Minister Abdul Aleem Khan and Minister of State for Information Technology Shaza Fatima Khawaja.

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