China and Pakistan on Friday signed eight agreements including an $18 billion (Rs 1.08 lakh crore) deal to build a 200 km-long strategic tunnel through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The tunnel deal between the “good neighbours, friends, partners as well as brothers” is likely to upset India, which has consistently voiced concern over Chinese activities in PoK.
What’s more, Delhi had conveyed its concern over the project during Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May.
The agreements were signed after visiting Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with Keqiang in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People.
Incidentally, Indian defence minister AK Antony is also in China.
China has strategic interest in the Pak-China Economic Corridor, Li said on the 200 km-long tunnel, which will connect Pakistan's Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea and Kashghar in Xinjiang in northwest China.
China took control of the strategic Gwadar port this year. This gave it access to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz through which a third of the world’s oil is transported.
According to experts, the corridor will speed up development in Xinjiang, which has seen frequent unrest, and also open up a new route for China’s energy imports from West Asia.
The corridor will pass through PoK, which borders Xinjiang and provides the only feasible transport link between China and Pakistan.
Earlier welcoming Sharif, who chose to visit China for his first foreign tour after returning to power in May, Li said, “I greatly appreciate your great warmth and deep affection for the people of China.”
Sharif said the welcome “reminds me of the saying our friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea in the world, and sweeter than honey”.
While discussing bilateral and regional issues, the two leaders agreed to promote the policies aimed at advancing the cause of peace, cooperation and harmony creating a win-win situation in the region, Pakistan’s state-run news agency APP reported.
China reaffirmed that its relationship with Pakistan was always a matter of highest priority in its foreign policy and it would continue to strengthen this strategic partnership.
It vowed to continue extending its full support to Pakistan in the latter’s efforts to uphold its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, while respecting the development path chosen by the people according to its national priority, and support Pakistan in maintaining social stability and economic development.
Pakistan reiterated that friendship with China was the cornerstone of its foreign policy, enjoying a national consensus and appreciated the support and assistance of the Chinese government and people for Pakistan’s sovereignty and socio-economic development.
“Pakistan will continue to adhere to its one-China policy, oppose Taiwan and Tibet’s independence and support China’s efforts in combating the ‘Three Evils’ of extremism, terrorism and separatism. We regard ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) as our common threat and stand united in combating this menace,” Sharif said.
Ahead of Sharif’s visit, Xinjiang province was rocked by violence in which 35 people were killed.
The violence in the Muslim-majority province bordering PoK brought to fore Beijing’s concerns that the Uighur militants of the separatist ETIM are being trained in terror camps in Pakistan.
An agreement for cooperation between Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) was also signed.
Trade between China and Pakistan exceeded $12 billion for the first time last year, while it is targeted to rise to $15 billion in the next two to three years.
On Thursday, Sharif had held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and sought assistance to tackle a severe energy crisis and economic woes.
Xi had said the all-weather strategic cooperation were treasures to both countries and the foundation for the future development of the bilateral relations. China and Pakistan are “good neighbours, friends, partners as well as brothers,” Xi had added.