Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travels to Beijing today where he’ll meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and speak at
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travels to Beijing today where he’ll meet with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and speak at the Chinese-Pakistan business forum tomorrow.
A crucial topic is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects—a vast network of new or upgraded power plants, highways and railways linking Gwadar and Karachi ports on Pakistan’s southern coast to the underdeveloped north and into China.
Many CPEC projects have stalled primarily due to Pakistan’s hefty $85 billion debt—26% of which is owed to China. Pressure from the US to curtail China’s geopolitical reach in the sub-continent has also contributed to Islamabad slowing down or cancelling some projects. Washington has cautioned the International Monetary Fund that its Pakistan bailouts over the past year will not be used to settle Islamabad’s debts to China.
Khan will likely tell Beijing that his government remains committed to CPEC’s projects. One such plan is the $8.5 billion upgrading of the Karachi-Peshawar railway approved to proceed in late September after months of uncertainty over its financial viability.
Khan is walking a tightrope, balancing Pakistan’s US and China relations while seeking to keep the country financially afloat. However, Khan’s stock is rising with Washington, especially if he ensure Taliban fidelity to the US withdrawal plan for Afghanistan. This may keep US pressure at bay for now.