While Khan plays on a complex geopolitical chessboard, Chinese aid could be a financial lifeline as Islamabad faces off against deadly religious extremism…
It has been a breathless week, huddled in the shadow of the simmering, bubbling, politico-religious volcano that is Imran Khan’s Pakistan.
And this week’s multi-faceted developments may just signal seismic shifts in Pakistan’s internal and external relations for the foreseeable future.
Before moving on to bloodier matters, let’s start with the “Mr. Khan Goes to China” episode – essential for reviewing all aspects of what is enthusiastically described by both sides as the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership”.
Xi’s financial lifeline for Khan?
Prime Minister Khan, leading a fresh government elected in July and facing a range colossal challenges, set the tone from the start. He did not mince words.
“Countries go in cycles, they have their high points, they have their low points,” he said.
“Unfortunately, our country is going through a low point at the moment with two very big deficits, a fiscal deficit and a current account deficit. And so we, as I’ve said, have come to learn.”
Arguably few teachers beat Chinese President Xi Jinping, praised by Khan as a role model.
“China’s phenomenal achievements are worth emulating,” Khan said.
“No other country has tackled poverty and corruption the way China has tackled it.”
The lynchpin of the strategic partnership is inevitably the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the New Silk Road, or Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI). Before his stint as guest of honor of the First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Khan met a crucial player in Beijing for CPEC financing: Jin Liquan, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Right from the start, Pakistan’s new Planning Minister Makhdoom Bukhtiar was confident that Islamabad would not need to reschedule around $2.7 billion in Chinese loans due for repayment in 2018. Instead, what’s in the cards is an improved economic package centered on taking CPEC to the next level.
A financially stable Pakistan is absolutely crucial for the success of BRI.