In Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first foreign tour in April 2015, his first stop was “close friend” Pakistan. The purpose of President Xi’s visit was to upgrade the China-Pakistan relationship to an “all-weather” strategic cooperative partnership. Over the course of the past year, leaders of China and Pakistan signed 51 agreements of cooperation due to efforts from both the sides. This includes a strong push for construction of a China-Pakistan economic corridor to allow the people of Pakistan to reap the benefits of China’s growing cooperation with Pakistan.
Energy Cooperation— A Desert transforms into an oasis of solar energy
2015 was an important year for the China-Pakistan corridor as it progressed from the planning to implementation stage. The China-Pakistan corridor is a flagship project of the “One Belt-One Road” strategy. During President Xi’s visit, both sides identified the construction of this corridor as critical. The four key projects of the corridor include the Gwadar port, energy, infrastructure development and industrial cooperation, which make up the “1+4” cooperation arrangement. Earlier this year on January 15, the Pakistan government decided to set up a Pakistan Economic Corridor Steering Committee chaired by Prime Minister Sharif in order to improve coordination and advancement of the construction of the China-Pakistan economic corridor. According to an expert, the China-Pakistan economic corridor will be a “powerful boost” for Pakistan.
For a long time Pakistan has been plagued by energy shortages; electricity shortages have hampered people’s lives as well as overall economic development. Pakistan faces a daily electricity shortfall of 400 million Kwh. At its peak in the summer the shortfall reaches 750 million Kwh. Daily power cuts for over ten hours are a norm. Access to sources of energy is the key element for sustainable development of Pakistan’s economy. During President Xi’s visit, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated his aspiration for energy cooperation on a number of occasions. Of the 51 agreements signed, half of the projects were energy related.
The Jinnah Solar Energy Industrial Park, located in Punjab province of Pakistan, along with Tebian Electric Apparatus (TBEA), located in Xinjiang, has been running a 100 megawatt solar energy project which has been producing photovoltaic energy since its completion early last year. Zhao Chaofeng, the person incharge of the power station, told this reporter that by the end of 2015, the project had already accumulated 120 million Kwh of clean energy for local transportation. Pakistan’s Minister of Planning and Development, Ehsan Iqbal Chowdhury said, “At a time when other international investors didn’t want to invest in Pakistan due to security reasons, China invested in Pakistan to build power stations. This was a big help to us.”
With investments adding up to over 1.5 billion dollars, the Jinnah Solar Industrial Park 900 megawatt photovoltaic energy project is a priority project that is being pursued as part of the China-Pakistan economic corridor. It is one of the biggest photovoltaic energy production projects in the world and is also China’s largest overseas photovoltaic energy investment so far. The project, which began construction during President Xi’s Pakistan visit, is already generating 50 megawatts of electricity in the first phase. The remainder 250 megawatt will be generated once construction is completed. Qasim, a young Pakistani man working on this project exclaimed that Chinese companies will “convert the desert into an energy oasis where all Pakistani people will want to go”.
On January 10 this year, 50 km away from Islamabad on the riverside of Jhelum, China’s Three Gorges Corporation started working on their main project—the Kohala hydroelectric power plant. This is the first hydroelectric investment project under the China-Pakistan economic corridor and also the first single fund Silk Road project. After the completion of this project, it will provide Pakistan with 3.1 billion Kilowatts of clean energy, thus playing a very effective part in solving Pakistan’s electricity shortage problem. Three Gorges Corporation’s Chairman Lu Chun said Pakistan is rich in hydroelectric power and other clean energy sources . It also has huge market demand, therefore using the water resource rich Jhelum for hydroelectric projects will be very fruitful. Using nature’s gift to convert a stream of water into money and clean energy is a dream nurtured by the people of Pakistan for 40 years. Now this dream is within reach. Haider, who works in the South Asia division of the Three Gorges Corporation, told this reporter that, “this project will open Pakistan to development and prosperity and will benefit our fellow citizens”. The Kohala hydroelectric power plant will be a model of Chinese technology as well as a standard for overseas investment. It will also create more than 2000 jobs for local people and promote the development of related power generation industry.
Traffic network–Revitalize economic development resources
Building a fast and smooth transportation network is essential for economic development. On December 22, 2015, two transport infrastructure projects—the Karachi-Lahore expressway (Skur to Multan section) and the upgrading of the Karakoram Highway (link with Tashkurgan) were officially signed as part of the China-Pakistan economic corridor project.
The signing of the Karachi-Lahore expressway contract under the China-Pakistan economic corridor is a landmark event. Chen Wenjian, GM of the overseas projects division in the Chinese construction company working on this project, told this reporter that this project will help strengthen the traditional friendship between China and Pakistan. The related Chinese industries produced along the line will work efficiently and will help in the export of Chinese construction equipment, manufacturing equipment and construction material.
High grade transportation infrastructure is essential for regional economic development. The GM of the China Overseas Projects Implementation Department and China Road and Bridge Engineering Co Ltd, Lu Shan, said that the second phase of Karakorum expressway project will upgraded, thus expanding the coverage and scope of Pakistan’s road network. It will also increase its standard and the strengthen regional economic ties between Islamabad and Banan region along the expressway. Amir Lula Khan, a travel agent from Pakistan’s Hunza region, said that Hunza, in Pakistan’s Northern region, possesses unique tourism potential. Earlier it was covered by mountains and people had no knowledge of its existence. But now its tourism potential can be realised thanks to the Karakorum highway which has been effectively linked with other areas.
The China Railroad Company and China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) will jointly construct the Lahore metro orange line project. The Export-Import bank of China has offered a loan of 1.61 billion dollars to fund the project. The total length of this line will be 27 km with a total of 26 stations. Construction of 1500 foundation poles were already completed by the end of last year. On October 26, 2015, the China International Aviation Joint stock Ltd Company started a Beijing-Islamabad air route, opening an air connection between the two cities for the first time.
The gradual implementation of transport infrastructure projects strengthens Pakistan’s economic development. Step-by-step these close exchanges create favorable conditions for Pakistan and China.
Benefits for the people — Vast prospects of friendly cooperation
The Gwadar FTA status is particularly important under the China-Pakistan economic corridor framework, . In order to strengthen Gwadar port’s operational capability, China overseas Port Holding Ltd Corporation has intensified the setting up of port related installations. Both China and Pakistan are actively driving forward the Gwadar Port East Bay expressway, the new international airport and other projects. Chinese companies are also actively helping in the construction of Gwadar Port elementary school, Gwadar hospital and Gwadar Technical Vocational College to improve the living standard of local people,
There are a number of other eye catching projects as well. The Qasim port coal-fired power plants, large 50,000 Kwt wind power projects combined with additional energy from 100,000 kwt of wind power projects, as well as other projects have already been started. There are many other projects which will either be begun in 2016 or continue to be pursued. Along with the implementation of China-Pakistan cooperation projects, companies and builders from all over China are coming together on this hot real estate in order to improve Pakistan
People in both the countries will benefit from the friendly cooperation. This cooperation will become a model for regional peace, sustainable development and mutual respect and cooperation between countries.—China’s “can give up gold but not its friendship with Pakistan” approach has also touched the hearts of the people of Pakistan. In April last year, President Xi himself awarded Masood Khan (the Head of Islamabad Strategic Research Institute and former Pakistani Ambassador to China) the Five Principles of Friendship Award. Masood Khan said that during President Xi’s visit to Pakistan both countries signed many agreements. It was the biggest gift given to the people of Pakistan from China and offers a new hope of development to Pakistan’s people. Khalid Rehman, the Head of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, believes that China and Pakistan’s pragmatic collaboration reflects the determination and effort by both the countries to create a common destiny.
2016 is the 65th anniversary of the establishment of China-Pakistan diplomatic relations. ChairmanXi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan provided a strong impetus to the relations and gave their friendship a profound traditional Chinese meaning of “higher than mountains, deeper than sea and sweeter than honey”. The future of China-Pakistan friendly cooperation is definitely bright !
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