BEIJING: President Xi Jinping, in a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday, assured China’s continued support for Pakistan’s sustainable economic and strategic projects, including Main Line-1 (ML-1) rail track.
He also announced an additional assistance package of Rs15.2 billion for the country’s flood relief efforts. In a meeting held at the People’s Great Hall, the two leaders, reaffirming their mutual commitment to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), agreed that as a project of strategic importance, both sides would make joint efforts to launch the ML-1 as an early harvest project under the CPEC framework.
Both leaders also acknowledged the need for a mass-transit project in Karachi and agreed to finalise all formalities for the early launch of the Karachi Circular Railway.
They also appreciated the signing of a number of agreements, covering a broad range of bilateral cooperation during the visit. PM Shehbaz Sharif congratulated President Xi on his re-election as General Secretary of the 20th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He also thanked him for China’s invaluable assistance to Pakistan’s relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the wake of devastation, caused by super floods in Pakistan.
The two leaders reviewed the progress in Pakistan-China bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. They reaffirmed their commitment to the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two countries that has withstood the test of time.
The two nations have stood firmly side by side, in realising their shared vision of peace, stability, development and prosperity. Reaffirming Pakistan’s unique historic ties with China and the bilateral friendship for regional peace and stability, Prime Minister Shehbaz strongly emphasised that Pakistan-China friendship enjoys complete consensus across the political spectrum in Pakistan and is a model of inter-state relations.
Paying tribute to President Xi’s leadership for China’s prosperity and his vision for strengthening the bilateral relationship, the prime minister said that Pakistan drew inspiration from China’s socio-economic development and national resolve to the country’s progress and prosperity.
The two leaders discussed cooperation across a range of issues, including defence, trade and investment, agriculture, health, education, green energy, science and technology and disaster preparedness.
They exchanged views on the rapid transformation in the international environment, which had exacerbated economic challenges for developing countries. They affirmed their shared belief in dialogue and cooperation, based on equality and mutual benefit as critical for global peace and prosperity.
They agreed that contemporary challenges like climate change, health pandemics and growing inequalities needed unqualified cooperation among states, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
There was complete unanimity of views between the two leaders. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Xi Jinping also discussed the key issues, pertaining to the region including the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and in Afghanistan.
Both leaders acknowledged that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan would promote regional security and economic development and agreed that CPEC’s extension to Afghanistan would strengthen regional connectivity initiatives. The prime minister also extended a warm invitation to President Xi for visiting Pakistan at an early date, which the latter accepted graciously.
Meanwhile, the leading Chinese companies during the official visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to China have shown their keen interest to invest in Pakistan’s solar, water and other infrastructure projects.
The prime minister invited the Chinese corporate heads to visit Pakistan and invest in the government’s comprehensive solar power project aimed at generating 10,000MW electricity. He also encouraged them to invest in Pakistan’s alternative energy resources, including the wind turbine power plants.
Shehbaz Sharif stressed early completion of the infrastructure of Gwadar International Airport, to which the Chinese companies assured of completing the project by the beginning of year 2023. The prime minister in a meeting with Chinese investors and businessmen said the government since assuming power in April had resolved several issues pertaining to them and had paid them the pending dues of Rs160 billion. An amount of Rs50 billion has been paid to them recently, he added.
He said a revolving fund had been established by the State Bank of Pakistan on the directive of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar with seed money of Rs50 billion. He regretted the obstacles faced by the Chinese companies in the past on the matters concerning the payment of imported coal.
He vowed to address on priority the issues related to land acquisition for construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam and other hurdles in way to completion of Mohmand Dam.
Shehbaz Sharif assured provision of foolproof security to the Chinese personnel working in Pakistan and said that across-the-board security would be ensured for those deputed on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and other joint initiatives. He extended condolences over the death of Chinese men and women who lost their lives while at work in Pakistan.
To address water shortage in Pakistan’s metropolitan city Karachi, the prime minister said the federal government along with the Sindh government was ready to collaborate with the Chinese companies to resolve the issue. The prime minister expressed confidence that strong business and investment linkages between Pakistan and China would lead to further cementing of bilateral relations.
He thanked the Chinese companies in taking special interest in Pakistan’s development projects, particularly the Gwadar Port, Main Line-1 railway track and several other projects. He also expressed gratitude over the generous support extended by China in the wake of massive flash floods in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu and discussed the bilateral matters and mutual cooperation.
The meeting was held at the Great Hall of the People where he also earlier met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Accompanied by a high level delegation, the prime minister is on maiden two-day official visit to China.
Earlier, the prime minister was given guard of honour as he arrived at the Great Hall for his meetings with the Chinese leadership. - In the 47-point joint statement released by the Foreign Office at the conclusion of the first bilateral visit to China by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in very clear terms that relations with Pakistan will always be given the highest priority in its foreign policy.
During the visit, the prime minister met Xi Jinping, President of China, with Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, and Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
While the leadership of both the countries reaffirmed that close strategic ties and profound friendship between China and Pakistan was time-tested and resilient, the Chinese side reiterated that relations with Pakistan will always be given the highest priority in its foreign policy.
”The Pakistani side underscored that Pakistan-China relationship is the cornerstone of its foreign policy and that the Pakistani people always support the closest friendship between the two nations. Pakistan-China friendship is a historic choice of both the peoples that serves the interests of the two countries”, said the statement.
Both the sides were determined to counter all threats and designs against CPEC and Pakistan-China friendship. ”Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to the safety and security of all Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan. The Chinese side appreciated Pakistan’s strong determination and vigorous measures in this regard”, added the statement. Both the countries while discussing peace and security in the region reiterated that a peaceful and prosperous South Asia is in the common interest of all parties.
“They emphasised the importance of resolving all outstanding disputes through sincere dialogue. The Pakistani side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The Chinese side reiterated that the Kashmir issue was a dispute left from history that should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements“, added the statement.
The two sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and expressed opposition to the politicisation of the issue of counter terrorism. China recognised Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The two sides agreed to further enhance counter terrorism cooperation to promote international peace and security.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation, trust and communication between the armed forces of the two countries. Underscoring that stronger strategic defence and security cooperation between China and Pakistan is an important factor of peace and stability in the region, the two sides agreed to maintain high-level military-to-military visits and exchanges and deepen cooperation in areas of training, joint exercises and military technology.
Given the fast changes in the region, the statement saw both countries expressing satisfaction with the close cooperation, trust and communication between the armed forces of the two countries.
The Pakistani side expressed its commitment to the one-China Policy and support on issues of Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. The Chinese side reaffirmed its support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and promoting its socio-economic development and prosperity.
Noting completion of a decade of CPEC’s remarkable achievements in 2023, the two sides expressed satisfaction at CPEC’s contribution to socio-economic development of the two countries. The two sides noted that the recent meeting of CPEC Joint Working Group on International Cooperation and Coordination (ICC) had highlighted that CPEC was an open and inclusive platform. Both sides welcomed interested third parties to benefit from investment opportunities in the priority areas of CPEC cooperation such as industry, agriculture, IT, science and technology, and oil and gas.
On Afghanistan, the two sides agreed that a peaceful, prosperous, interconnected and stable Afghanistan is fundamental to regional prosperity and progress. They expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the three foreign ministers’ meetings of the six neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and looked forward to the next meeting to be held in Uzbekistan.
The two sides underscored the need for the international community to provide continued assistance and support to Afghanistan including through unfreezing of Afghanistan’s overseas financial assets. The two sides agreed to continue their humanitarian and economic assistance for the Afghan people and enhance development cooperation in Afghanistan, including through CPEC’s extension to Afghanistan.
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and agreed to jointly promote multilateralism, free trade and win-win cooperation. They expressed satisfaction with their close cooperation at multilateral fora and are resolved to further deepen strategic communication, coordination and consultation.
The two sides also supported consensus-based reform of the UN to respond to the interests and concerns of all Member States. The two sides reiterated their commitment to advancing and protecting human rights for all in accordance with applicable international obligations and national circumstances. They stressed that bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the area of human rights should be guided by the principles of the UN Charter including respect for political independence, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States.
Both countries signed and concluded a number of agreements/MoUs, covering bilateral cooperation in areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural product, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property, infrastructure, flood relief, post-disaster reconstruction, GDI, animal disease control, livelihood, cultural cooperation, space, geo-sciences as well as law enforcement and security.