Pakistan, China set sights on Arabian Sea link

BEIJING  -   Pakistan and China on Friday set their sights on developing a transport link from northwestern China through rugged Pakistani mountains to the Arabian Sea, a route they hope will boost economic growth and slash shipping times.During first official visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Beijing, the leadership of the two countries vowed to further deepen their ‘sweeter than honey’ relationship, enhance bilateral cooperation and strengthen coordination on international and regional issues.In a joint statement issued at the end of the talks between Nawaz and his counterpart Li Keqiang‚ China reiterated support to Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It reaffirmed that its relationship with Pakistan is a matter of highest priority in its foreign policy and it would continue to strengthen strategic partnership.A broad agreement for the “economic corridor” was among eight pacts signed following the meeting between the two prime ministers and their associated. The transport link was described as a “long-term plan” to connect the Chinese city of Kashgar to the port of Gwadar, more than 2,000 kilometres away across the towering Karakoram mountains and Pakistan’s Balochistan province. This ambitious project would cost around $18 billion and involve building around 200 kilometres tunnels.Another agreement will see a fibre optic cable laid from the Chinese border to the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi that will boost Pakistan’s access to international communications networks. China is to provide 85 per cent of the financing for the three-year project’s $44 million budget, with Pakistan covering the rest. Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal signed the Economic Corridor pact from Pakistani side while National Development and Reforms Commission of PRC Chairman Xu Shao Shi inked the pact from Chinese side.The Agreement on Economic and Technical cooperation between the Government of Pakistan and China was also inked. The Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi signed this agreement. The document for laying optic fibre link was signed between Strategic Communication organisation of Pakistan and Huawei company. Advisor Tariq Fatemi signed another MoU for cooperation between Institute of Strategic Study and China Institute of Contemporary Study.Two letters of exchanges were also signed – one on training courses for textile, flood relief and disastrous management, and the other on provision of equipment for eradication of Polio. Punjab Energy Minister Choudhry Sher Ali Khan signed MoU on local home solar solution project. The chief of the ZTE signed the documents on Chinese side. Another MoU was signed for cooperation and exchanges between ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Ruling Communist Party of China. All these agreements and MoUs were signed in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Premier Li Keqaing.The two countries recognising the existing opportunities and the challenges pledged to promote policies that can advance the cause of peace‚ co-operation‚ and harmony. The leadership of both the countries also reaffirmed their commitment to pursue people-centric policies that could mitigate poverty‚ promote social and economic development and diminish the roots of conflictChinese leadership appreciated Pakistan's long-term‚ staunch support on issues concerning China's core interests and assured to continue its full support to Pakistan in its efforts to maintain its independence‚ sovereignty and territorial integrity. The leadership said it also supports Pakistan in maintaining social stability and economic development.Pakistan reiterated that friendship with China was the cornerstone of its foreign policy‚ enjoying a national consensus. Pakistan appreciated the support and assistance of the Chinese government and people for Pakistan's sovereignty and socio-economic development. Nawaz said Pakistan will continue to adhere to its one-China policy‚ oppose Taiwan and Tibet's independence and support China's efforts in combating the "Three Evils" of extremism‚ terrorism and separatism.The two sides agreed that the evolving situation in Afghanistan has great implications for the regional security and stability and they reaffirmed their support for an ‘Afghan-owned and Afghan-led’ peace and reconciliation process‚ and said they would work with the regional countries and the international community to help Afghanistan achieve peace‚ stability and security.China and Pakistan also reaffirmed their commitment to promoting multilateral arms control‚ disarmament and non-proliferation measures. Both believe that global disarmament measures should not be discriminatory. Both sides also decided to further strengthen the ties of pragmatic cooperation between them‚ with a view to translating their high-level political relationship into wider economic dividends.The Chinese leaders also appreciated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had chosen China as his first destination for his visit abroad. The Chinese side agreed to support the efforts of Pakistan in addressing its urgent energy needs. The two sides agreed to hold the third meeting of the China-Pakistan Joint Energy Working Group at an early date and deepen cooperation in conventional energy‚ renewable energy and other sources of energy.The two sides agreed to fully implement the Additional Agreement to Extend the Five Year Development Programme on China-Pakistan Trade and Economic Cooperation and the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement; fast track work on the projects identified under the Five Year Development Program; hold the second phase of tax-reduction negotiations of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement on speedy basis; further liberalise trade‚ and advance economic integration between them.The two sides would also support enterprises of the two countries in conducting cooperation on establishment of industrial zones in Gwadar. In a meeting with President China Overseas Port Holding Company Limited Sun Ziyun, Nawaz said his government desires to develop Gwadar Port on Hong Kong model and it may be given special status through necessary legislation to ensure speedy work. Nawaz said the govt wanted to develop an airport of international standard in Gwadar and called for early completion of the repair and rehabilitation works on Karakorum Highway. Nawaz ordered the completion of Lahore-Karachi Motorway within two and half years after finalising the feasibility study of the project in three months. Talking to PTV after signing of an MoU between Pakistan and China for this motorway, he said government was committed to provide comfortable and affordable transport facilities to its citizens within minimum possible time.