Islamabad: Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive here today on his first official visit to Pakistan where he is expected to sign a landmark agreement for an economic corridor worth USD 46 billion that will stabilise Pakistan's cash-strapped economy and expand the Communist giant's influence in India's neighbourhood.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will link China's underdeveloped far-western region to Pakistan's Gwadar deep-sea port on the Arabian Sea via PoK through a massive and complex network of roads, railways, business zones, energy schemes and pipelines.
A fleet of eight JF-17 Thunder fighter jets - jointly made by the two countries - will escort the Chinese president once his plane enters Pakistani airspace.
A red-carpet welcome will be accorded to Xi who has chosen Pakistan as his first foreign destination in 2015 after cancelling his previous trips.
Pakistani Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the the total cost of the CPEC is USD 46 billion. “It is not a single project but includes several projects related to energy generation, infrastructure development and business areas,” he said.
The initial focus is on electricity and some of the early harvest projects would be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity.
Xi will meet his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain who will host a lunch in his honour and will also confer Pakistan's highest civilian award - ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan' - on the Chinese president.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have detailed talks with Xi who is also the General-Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China, and later several agreements will be signed. Ahsan said that projects with worth up to USD 28 billion were ready and the groundbreaking of some of these agreements will also be performed.
The CPEC is considered as a “game-changer” that is expected to change the economic outlook of Pakistan. China has decided to go ahead with the ambitious project despite serious security concern in its restive Muslim-dominated Xinjiang as well as the Taliban threat in Pakistan.
The corridor, regarded as the biggest connectivity project between the two countries after Karakoram highway built in 1979, is a centrepiece of China's ambitions to shorten the route for its energy imports from the Middle East. China has played down India's concerns on the 3,000-km corridor that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), saying that it is a commercial project.