China vows to give ‘necessary support’ to Pakistan, 16 agreements signed

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China says more talks needed on economic aid for Pakistan Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, and China’s Premier Li Keqiang attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Saturday, November 3, 2018. (Source: AP/PTI)

China Saturday reiterated its plans to provide economic aid to Pakistan to tide over its financial crisis, but said that the modalities of the deal needed to be worked out. Meanwhile, the two countries signed 16 bilateral agreements and also reaffirmed their commitment to go through with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday.

“China will provide help and assistance within the realm of its capability,” said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou after Khan’s meeting with the Chinese Premier.

Khan is on a four-day official visit to China, his first after taking charge as prime minister.

Kong added that during the meeting, the two sides had agreed in principle that China government would provide necessary support and assistance to Pakistan in tiding over the current economic difficulties. “As to the specific measures to be taken, the competent authorities of the two countries would have detailed discussions,” Kong said.

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China and Pakistan refer to themselves as “all-weather friends”, sharing close economic and military ties. Pakistan over the years owes China billions of dollars that were used to fund infrastructure projects. Estimates suggest that China has so far pledged a total of over $60 billion to Pakistan in the form of loans and investments for roads, ports, power plants and industrial parks. Some of these loans have been granted under President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “Belt and Road” connectivity project.

But Pakistan’s precarious fiscal condition has raised a question over its ability to service these Chinese loans. Pakistan is seeking an emergency bailout loan of $8 billion from the International Monetary Fund. It is also seeking new loans from Saudi Arabia and China as its foreign reserves have plunged 42 per cent since the start of the year and now stand at $8 billion.

Kong also said that the two sides had agreed to firmly move forward the CPEC while ensuring the smooth operation of completed projects and advancing the ongoing projects.

“The two sides will gradually brand dimensions of industrial cooperation to the CPEC, and extend it to other parts of Pakistan so that it will drive all round development of China-Pakistan economic cooperation,” he added.

Ruling out any change in the number of projects under the CPEC, he said that there had been no change in the number of projects under this framework, adding, “If there will be any change, it will increase in the number of projects and going forward.”

The Vice FM said that the two countries had decided to establish working group on social and livelihood affairs under the CPEC joint cooperation committee.

The two countries also signed 16 bilateral agreements in the fields of economic and technical cooperation, agriculture, poverty reduction, science and technology, innovation and combating drug trafficking, besides establishment of joint research centre on earth sciences, joint working group on social and livelihood affairs.

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