AS was widely expected, the maiden visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to China proved to be a remarkable success as the Chinese side responded favourably to Pakistan’s request for substantial assistance in achieving fiscal stability, fast-paced implementation of strategically important projects, expansion of CPEC framework and trade in local currencies to release pressure on the falling foreign exchange reserves.
President Xi Jinping, who always demonstrated his commitment to each and every cause of Pakistan, once again reaffirmed the determination of his Government to help the country in every respect for the mutual good of the people of the two countries.
The outcome of the visit is a clear indication that the relevant ministries and divisions, especially the Foreign Office, Finance and Economic Affairs and Planning & Development, put in a lot of efforts in the preparatory work and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was able to put across the point of view of the country in a convincing manner.
Pakistan was facing economic crunch due to a variety of reasons and factors and in this backdrop the announcement of the Chinese President to continue supporting Pakistan in stabilizing its financial position has widely been hailed by people of Pakistan.
He also announced an additional assistance package of Rs 15.2 billion for the country’s flood relief efforts, which could serve as an example for other members of the international community to come to the rescue of Pakistan at this critical time.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Pakistan got what it wanted to achieve from the China visit as the two countries agreed to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) particularly acceleration of work on infrastructure for Gwadar Sea Port, which assumes special importance for investment promotion and economic development of Pakistan.
The decision to extend CPEC to Afghanistan is a step in the right direction, which is not only yet another manifestation of China’s commitment to the progress and welfare of Afghan people but also in line with the overall policy of the Chinese leader to promote and strengthen regional connectivity for shared prosperity.
We have been emphasizing in these columns, time and again, that the ML-I project is strategically important for Pakistan and needs to be implemented on a fast track basis and in this backdrop the decision of the two countries to include it in the early harvest projects under the framework of CPEC is a highly welcome development.
They also acknowledged the need for a mass-transit project in Karachi, and agreed to finalize all formalities for the early launch of the Karachi Circular Railway.
It is all the more satisfying that all out efforts are being made to modernize Pakistan Railways and in this connection, according to the Chinese media, China will export technology for a 160 km/h high-speed railway train to Pakistan.
The first batch of 46 train carriages has been loaded and being shipped while parts for another 184 carriages will be delivered to Pakistan to assemble.
The very fact that this is the first time China has exported the technology to any other country is reflective of the special nature of the friendship between the two countries.
In another significant development, the central banks of Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of cooperation on Yuan clearing in Pakistan, which could pave the way for an alternative payment option for Pakistan, boosting Yuan usage for cross-border transactions among Chinese and Pakistani enterprises and financial institutions.
The two sides also signed and concluded a number of agreements covering bilateral cooperation in the areas of e-commerce, digital economy, export of agricultural products, financial cooperation, protection of cultural property, infrastructure, flood relief, post-disaster reconstruction, GDI, animal disease control, livelihood, cultural cooperation, space, geosciences as well as law enforcement and security.
During their broad-based talks, the two leaders also discussed cooperation across a range of issues, including defence, trade and investment, agriculture, health, education, green energy, science and technology and disaster preparedness.
It is a reality that Chinese believe in practical work and, therefore, one hopes the Pakistani side would come up to the expectation of the other side to give practical shape to agreements signed and understanding reached during the visit of the Prime Minister.
There would be visible change in the socio-economic landscape of the country if all the MoUs and agreements are implemented in letter and in spirit.