Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day visit in which he is expected to announce $45 billion worth of investment projects in energy and infrastructure development.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s top civilian and military leadership received the visiting president at an air force base near the capital, Islamabad. The president was given a military honor guard and a fighter jet fly-by.
Xi will announce $45 billion worth of projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors, Pakistan’s minister for planning and development, Ahsan Iqbal, said, calling it “proof of our great bond with China.” He said around $37 billion of that would be invested in energy. He also clarified that the total amount was $45 billion. Pakistani officials had previously put the total at $46 billion.
Iqbal said work on $28 billion worth of projects can begin immediately, with work on the remainder starting in the next three to five years. He called the agreements a “milestone in our history.”
Sharif said the visit will open a new chapter in bilateral relations. “We will work hand in hand with you to remove any obstacle in your way to ensure timely completion of the planned projects,” he said in a meeting with the heads of three Chinese companies.
China and Pakistan have long maintained close political and military relations, based partly on mutual antipathy toward neighbor India. However, stronger China-India ties have challenged that perception and Xi’s visit seems intended to reassure Pakistan that relations remain robust.
Xi postponed a visit to Islamabad last year due to anti-government protests and went ahead with a visit to India. China is also eager to boost trade and investment with New Delhi, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Beijing in the coming weeks.
China is a leading arms supplier to Pakistan and has sought its help in combating anti-Chinese Islamic separatists reportedly hiding in the country’s lawless tribal areas. China is also eager to enlist Pakistan’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan as U.S. and international troops wind down their presence there.
Xi will be traveling with a large business delegation and is expected to oversee the signing of investment agreements in the energy and transportation industries, part of Beijing’s plan for a China-Pakistan “economic corridor.”
“This is very important for our economic stability and development,” said political science professor Raul Bakhsh Rais.