China said on Monday that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Beijing this week will open a new chapter in the all weather bilateral relations, amid reports of his plans to downsize the CPEC projects and seek Chinese loans to avoid the IMF bailout.
Khan will arrive here on November 2, his first visit to China since he assumed the office in August. He will hold meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and the two sides will review the entire range of bilateral relations.
“You know that this is Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to China after assuming the office. This will provide an opportunity for the leaders of our two countries to open a new chapter of the development of bilateral relations under the new circumstances,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media here.
Lu said the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has achieved fruitful outcome and “our friendship has become ever deeper to deeper”.
The CPEC is the flagship venture of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of President Xi aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
Khan is visiting China amid anxieties here over his government’s plans to downsize some of the projects like $8 billion Karachi-Peshawar railway line by about $2 billion.
Cash-strapped Pakistan has also approached International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package but Khan has said his country need not approach the international lender as his government is consulting some friendly countries and seeking their help.
An assessment by the State Bank of Pakistan and the Finance Ministry showed that Pakistan needed $11.7 billion to service its external debt in current fiscal year 2018-19.
The IMF also wants to scrutinise the CPEC projects.
During his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Khan secured $3 billion loan assistance and differed oil payment to the tune of $3billion.
Reports from Pakistan say he may seek more loans from China to tide over cash crunch back home.
“We hope the two sides can take this visit as an opportunity to deepen our cooperation across the board and to move forward all-weather cooperative partnership,” Lu said.
He said apart from official events in Beijing, Khan will also travel to Shanghai to attend the first China International Import Expo on November 4.
“I want to stress that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. Our friendship date back to long time and our two sides enjoy very strong political mutual trust,” Lu said.
The bilateral relations will not be affected by changing international situation and the domestic situation, he said.