ISLAMABAD - China unveiled a major package on Monday that is expected to invigorate Pakistan's economy and advance Beijing's Silk Road initiatives.
The package was announced on the first day of President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan, which was marked by a grand welcoming ceremony.
The two countries signed 51 agreements and memorandums of understanding worth US$46 billion (S$62 billion), in two groups, including multibillion-dollar concessional loans provided by China, and focusing on areas including the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar, energy, transportation infrastructure and industry.
More than 30 agreements are designed to boost the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project connecting Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
As the early results of the planned corridor, 25 projects are scheduled to be completed in the next three to five years.
Gwadar Port, which is about 400 km from the Strait of Hormuz, will be upgraded and a 14 km expressway and an airport will be built in the area.
Under the 21 agreements on energy, the two countries will co-operate on gas, coal and solar energy projects to provide 16,400 megawatts of electricity- roughly equivalent to Pakistan's current capacity.
After the signings and meetings with Xi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at a joint news conference that the visit is "a watershed in the history of our relations".
The two countries have planned for the future, said Sharif, adding that the economic corridor will benefit all provinces in Pakistan and will make the country a regional hub.
Xi expressed satisfaction at the news conference over the achievements, saying China wants to continue its support for Pakistan, including offering free financial aid.
The layout of the economic corridor has taken various regions' interests into consideration and will benefit a wide-ranging public, said Xi. The plans for the corridor's eastern and western routes have been included in the two countries' long-term agendas to ensure the project's stable development, he added.
As Pakistan seeks to lure investment to boost its economy, Pakistani officials and media have expressed high expectations for Xi's visit, describing it as "fate-changing" and the agreements as a "milestone" in the two nations' longstanding relations.
Tang Mengsheng, director of the Pakistan Studies Center at Peking University, said the economic corridor will solve power shortages and boost Pakistani industries.
"For China, the project will not only fulfil its political promises but also bring benefits for the stability and development of its western areas."
Zhao Yanrong in Islamabad contributed to this story.
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