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October 11, 2019

Cooperation with China


October 11, 2019

As has been the case for more than five decades, China continues to remain Pakistan’s closest ally. At a meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing, China said it was willing to expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and that this would speed up regional development. There has been concern in Pakistan over a reported slowdown in work on CPEC, but Beijing has made it clear it remains completely committed to the promise, and will move at the faster pace to complete it. The corridor, consisting of a series of road, rail and port links could be of huge benefit to Pakistan’s flagging economy. For these reasons, the Chinese president’s assurance is an important one. Security concerns have also hovered threateningly over the project and China has recently set up its own security force to defend Chinese nationals working in Pakistan. With the arrival of nationals from another country in large numbers, other problems have also surfaced, but these are of minor concern given the huge benefits CPEC could offer Pakistan if it can indeed be completed.

There has been some criticism over the control the project gives China in Pakistan, but this again is less significant than the need to bolster Pakistan’s economy and generate jobs for people working along the new links. Much of these pass through the impoverished province of Balochistan to reach the Gwadar Port. Other than CPEC, the Chinese president appreciated the socio-economic development in Pakistan and its continued fight against terrorism. China has promised to support Pakistan in any way it can. PM Imran Khan of course reiterated the words of friendship and also brought up the issue of Indian-Occupied Kashmir. President Xi is due to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the next few days, and Pakistan will be hoping he can exert some pressure on the Kashmir issue.

Imran also made it clear he wishes to learn from the Chinese model on development and in combatting poverty. This may be cumbersome given that the Chinese model is deeply rooted in an ideology first developed under Chairman Mao and then altered, but not abandoned, by subsequent leaders. China is also essentially a one-party state. However, Pakistan’s need for friends in a hostile world is paramount to all else. China has made it clear it remains willing to cooperate in the economic sector, not only through CPEC but also in the industrial and infrastructure sectors. Educational links between the two countries were also discussed as were regional problems. The visit then has been a success and we must hope work on CPEC gets back on track as quickly as possible.

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