Strengthening the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan and accelerating the $60 billion CPEC projects figured prominently in early talks between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his newly appointed Pakistani counterpart Shehbaz Sharif on Monday.
According to multiple reports, a large number of Chinese workers deployed to Pakistan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects began to leave the country after the suicide bombing at Karachi University last month during of which three Chinese teachers were killed and another injured. .
Sharif assured Li of “enhanced security” for Chinese nationals working in Pakistan during their phone talks on Monday, the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune reported.
Several Chinese personnel have died in recent years in attacks by religious extremist groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) fighting for Balochistan’s independence.
The Pakistani army has formed a separate brigade to protect Chinese personnel. Chinese experts say that while security in Pakistan was mainly focused on big projects, those working in smaller institutions, like the University of Karachi where the suicide bomber struck, remained easy targets.
The Pakistani side will strengthen security measures for all institutions and Chinese nationals in Pakistan to prevent similar incidents from happening again, Sharif told Li.
Li stressed that the Chinese side is shocked and outraged by the recent attack on Chinese nationals in Karachi, and strongly condemns the terrorist attack.
Li hopes Pakistan will bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible, do its utmost to handle follow-up issues, comfort the bereaved families and the injured, and comprehensively strengthen security measures for Chinese institutions and citizens in Pakistan to to ensure that similar tragedies will not happen again, reported the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
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Sharif also assured the acceleration of CPEC projects, acknowledging that the high-profile strategic project, said to be the flagship of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is being hit by delays, especially under the previous government of Imran Khan.
The ambitious $60 billion CPEC is a 3,000 km route of infrastructure projects linking northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. India has protested to China against the CPEC as it is set up across Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
A document released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in Islamabad said that Sharif expressed his government’s determination to expedite the ongoing and new projects of CPEC.
He underscored the need for the two sides to work together and enhance cooperation between the relevant agencies of the two countries to fully operationalize Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Pakistan as soon as possible.
Before the fall of Imran Khan’s government, China agreed to refinance $4.5 billion of Pakistan’s debt in March, according to former Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy is currently being helped by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Sri Lanka – another recipient of Chinese loans and investments in the subcontinent – approached the global lender after the economic meltdown. , raising questions about why the two countries are facing bankruptcy despite securing major funding from Beijing.
Li told Sharif that China always considers its relations with Pakistan a priority in its diplomacy with neighboring countries. Beijing will, as always, firmly support Pakistan in defending its national sovereignty and security. China will support Pakistan in developing its economy, improving people’s livelihood and maintaining financial stability.
China is ready to work with Pakistan to strengthen strategic communication, promote cooperation on major projects such as CPEC, and strengthen bilateral personnel exchanges on condition of effective epidemic prevention and control. Mr. Li said.
Their talks followed last week’s virtual meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Officials said the talks were aimed at establishing contact between Pakistan’s new government and Chinese leaders.
Pakistan’s all-time ties with China over the past four decades, widely believed to be aimed at countering India, have remained stable, despite the periodic political crisis in Pakistan resulting in changes of government, including those of leaders. military.