By Priyanka Mogul
At a time when both Pakistan and China are seeing increasing tension with India, the two have signed a number of agreements with each other to strengthen economic and development cooperation. The move came during the Punjab Shandong Business Conference, which was held in the Chinese city of Jinan on 27 July.
Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, presided over the conference alongside the Vice Governor of Shandong province, Ji Xiang Qui. According to Pakistan Today, Vice Governor Qui said that Pakistan had succeeded in furthering Pak-China relations and that the Chinese leadership would be extending all efforts to provide full cooperation to Punjab.
Sharif said that investors and industrialists from both countries had come together and begun work on implementation of an investment of $46bn (£35bn, €41bn) by China, which will be used for projects all over Pakistan as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Sharif confirmed that a 1,320-megawatts coal power plant would be completed within two years.
Pakistani media reported that the Chief Minister of Punjab was being given the same protocol that is usually given to a head of state while visiting China. Sharif also met with the Secretary of Shadong Province’s Communist Party of China, Jiang Yikang, who said that the Chief Minister’s visit to China would go a long way in the stability of the Indo-Chinese friendship, as well as the speedy completion of CPEC projects.
Furthermore, an announcement was made launching a committee of senior officials who would overlook cooperation specifically between Punjab and Shandong in education, health, energy, infrastructure, transport, culture, as well as other sectors. Chinese investors in agriculture and livestock were invited to Pakistan to export their products to Europe and other countries, referring to it as a “natural extension of CPEC”.
India has expressed concern over China’s increasing reach in the region through port investments, particularly with deals made under CPEC. China is developing Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport under the agreements, which has prompted India to extend its commercial and strategic reach by pledging up to $500m for Iran’s port of Chabahar.
While India and Pakistan relations deteriorate over the conflict in Kashmir, India and China have also been at loggerheads. On 22 July, Beijing warned India over their deployment of 100 tanks to the Indo-Chinese border and on 25 July China’s state media warned India of “serious consequences” for refusing to renew three Chinese journalists’ visas.