China, Pakistan sign 15 agreements
China and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Sunday strengthening their all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and expanding cooperation on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The joint statement was issued during Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's first visit to China, during which Chinese experts said Khan is seeking help to alleviate Pakistan's fiscal crisis. China and Pakistan signed 15 bilateral cooperation agreements and memorandums of understanding during Khan's visit. The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in various fields including technology, trade, poverty alleviation, national defense, security and anti-terrorism as well as international and regional issues, the joint statement said. They reiterated devotion to the construction of CPEC in the joint statement, agreeing to hold the eighth meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee by the end of this year, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday. The two will speed up the construction of Gwadar port, which is a vital link in regional connections and a backbone to the CPEC, the joint statement said. Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for South and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday that "Gwadar will be an important port for western China and shipments of oil from the Middle East can get to China more easily than going through the Malacca Strait." China and Pakistan are satisfied with achievements of the CPEC, especially those in energy fields. They have agreed on the future development of CPEC, and the importance of finishing ongoing projects on time, focusing on economic and social development, creating jobs and improving people's livelihood, the joint statement said, stressing that China-Pakistani relations are always a priority of Chinese diplomacy. "Pakistan has special status on the Belt and Road initiative concerning its position as China's neighbor and importance in South Asia," Li Xiangyang, deputy director with the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday. Li pointed out that good relations and cooperation with Pakistan can serve as a model for China to cooperate with other countries in the future. Khan will attend the first China International Import Expo that opens on Monday in Shanghai. Not scapegoat As fiscal crisis swept Pakistan early this year some suggested CPEC loans from China added to the breakdown of the Pakistani economy. However, Chinese analysts disagree with the accusation. "International borrowing is normally risky and should not be taken as an excuse to criticize the Belt and Road initiative," Li Xiangyang said, pointing out that such criticism indicates a misunderstanding of the initiative. "The first stage of the CPEC focused on infrastructure construction, which is costly and takes time to realize progress. Visible benefits will emerge following the construction of industrial and economic parks under the CPEC," Li said. Opposition voices mainly arise under pressure from US President Donald Trump's America-first policy and aggressive "Indo-Pacific" strategy, said Wang Dehua. "China has nothing to do with Pakistan's economic crisis," Qasim Jan, president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the First General Assembly of the Alliance of International Science Organizations in the Belt and Road Region held on Sunday. Jan said that the Belt and Road initiative is not aimed at politics, and has generated a positive effect on world politics, as it helped create communications among people around the world. The CPEC also faces criticism from India as it passes through part of disputed Kashmir, the Press Trust of India PTI news agency said in a report on Friday. Wang and Li said India's territorial disputes with Pakistan should not hinder their economic cooperation with China.