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China, Pakistan to accelerate "economic corridor" construction

China, Pakistan to accelerate

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) meets with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 20, 2014. 

China and Pakistan have provided further details on their planned economic corridor project, signaling the two nations' commitment for stronger ties.

Leaders of the two states agreed to accelerate the building of the economic corridor, which will focus on energy cooperation, transportation infrastructure construction and industrial parks.

During a meeting with visiting Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the strategic significance of building an economic corridor.

The two sides need to implement large-scale cooperation projects in electricity and new energy, promote the management of the port of Gwadar and advance connectivity schemes, Li noted.

The economic corridor project was proposed during Li's visit to Pakistan in May 2013.

For China, the project with Pakistan links China's strategy to develop its western region with Pakistan's focus on developing its economy, Ma Jiali, researcher with China Institute of Contemporary International relations, told Xinhua.

Geographically, the economic corridor refers to the 2,000-kilometer road and rail link connecting Kashgar in west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar.

However, the project is not confined to transportation infrastructure construction. In addition to road and railway construction, it includes energy cooperation and investment programs.

During Hussain's visit to China, Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) were signed on Wednesday for upgrading the section of the Karakoram Highway.

Tang Mengsheng, director of the Pakistan Studies Center of Peking University, said the upgrading of Karakoram Highway plays a vital role in strengthening connectivity of the two sides.

He believes road reconstruction will facilitate bilateral trade and investment, and provide convenience for the two countries' cooperation in more fields.

In the energy sector, the MOU on co-establishing a national joint research center for small-scaled hydropower technology was signed between the two countries' ministries of science and technology.

According to Pakistani Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif, power shortage is one of the biggest challenges for Pakistan as people are subjected to long hours of load-shedding and the deficit of electricity reached around 5,000 MW during summer.

In the joint statement issued after Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with Hussain, the Chinese side assured Pakistan of its full support in helping the latter to address its energy deficit, which is a major obstacle ahead of Pakistan's socio-economic development.

China's state-owned enterprises and private companies are being encouraged to invest in Pakistan's conventional and renewable energy sectors.

In addition to hydropower, Ma Jiali predicted that China will also provide technical support for Pakistan to develop its wind, solar and nuclear energy.

Tang Mengsheng holds the view that the construction of the economic corridor will also help improve the security situation in some underdeveloped areas of Pakistan by reducing poverty and generating job opportunities.

China, Pakistan to accelerate

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (1st R) meets with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (2nd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 20, 2014. 

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