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CPEC to be focal point of Imran’s first official visit to China

Imran Khan is expected to make his first official visit to China as the Prime Minister of Pakistan later this month. Amongst various topics he will no doubt confer with the Chinese leadership about the progress of the most significant project the two countries are spearheading – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Prime Minister addressed a conference of senior officials today including the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Finance and Information amongst others. He spoke on CPEC and its importance for both countries involved, calling it the main pillar of Pakistan’s foreign policy. “Relations with China are an integral part of Pakistan’s foreign policy and we will work towards further strengthening ties with Beijing,” he was quoted as saying during the meeting.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

The $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the foundation for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a modern version of the historical Silk Road that aims to connect over 60 countries and is worth over $5 trillion. CPEC is the largest unilateral investment by one country into another, a bundle of projects that aims to improve Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors and also carries crucial economic and strategic benefits for China. This is mostly due to the location of the port of Gwadar, formerly a small fishing village in the province of Balochistan now expected to become the busiest shipping port in South Asia by 2023. Situated on the Strait of Hormuz at the opening of the Arabian Sea, Gwadar will serve as China’s westernmost port and its access point to the one of the world’s busiest oil shipping lanes. There is no doubt Gwadar will be incredibly significant for China and they certainly know it – the state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company Ltd is investing $1.62 billion into Gwadar’s redevelopment as a major global port city.

Deserted to developed

Imran Khan made his first official visit to Balochistan on Saturday. In the past he has criticised the former government of Nawaz Sharif of a lack of transparency regarding CPEC, in particular its impact on Balochistan. He vowed to no longer ignore the province like previous governments and promised the Balochi people their due share under CPEC. “Progress of the country is linked with development of Balochistan… The federal government will extend all possible cooperation to Balochistan to overcome its financial crisis and eliminate poverty,” Khan said on Saturday.

Key players

One of the main participants in CPEC aside from the governments is CPIC, a privately owned property investment firm specialising in real estate opportunities in Gwadar. Managing projects worth $500 million, CPIC builds safe and sustainable communities that encourage cohesion and offer a positive lifestyle, giving both residents and businesses the chance to thrive.

What next?

The bond between China and Pakistan is expected to grow stronger in the coming months as the number of CPEC projects continues to proliferate. CPEC’s significance for China is evident from the fact that it is part of the nation’s thirteenth five-year development plan. The program will prove to be a strong knitting factor between China and Pakistan who already share a history of congenial strategic relations over a versatile canvas of mutual interests extending over six decades.

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