Imran Khan arrives in China on maiden visit for talks on CPEC, IMF bailout
Beijing Imran Khan arrived here Friday in what is termed as the most significant visit to China by a Pakistani Prime Minister in recent years as the all-weather allies grapple to iron out differences over the multi-billion CPEC and Islamabad approaching ‘friendly nations’ to avoid a tough IMF bailout package.
Khan arrived in the early hours for his four-day visit, official sources said.
He is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on shoring up the all-weather ties. Both the countries are expected to sign several agreements.
He will also attend China’s International Import Expo on November 5 in Shanghai during the visit, billed as the most significant one by a Pakistani Prime Minister to China in recent years.
Reports in the Pakistan media said Khan was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Advisor on Commerce and Trade Abdul Razzak Dawood, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed among others.
Khan’s visit evoked considerable interest here as it comes in the wake of his past criticism of the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and remarks by his ministers to cut down some of the projects over debt concern.
The cricketer-turned-politician, during his first visit to China, is also expected to seek more Chinese loans to avoid approaching International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package.
He secured USD three billion funding from his recent visit to Saudi Arabia besides differed payment for oil imports worth about USD three billion for a year.
Pakistan has already approached the IMF but is concerned about the stringent conditions the international lender may impose specially to scrutinise the CPEC projects.
For its part, China is also concerned about critical remarks made by Ministers from Khan’s Cabinet.
While Dawood told the Financial Times that some of the agreements were unfair to Pakistani companies and should be put on hold for a year, Rashid said that Pakistan wants to cut the size of the USD eight billion Karachi-Peshawar rail line, the biggest project of the CPEC, by USD two billion.
The statements evoked serious concerns in China as the CPEC is the flagship project of Xi’s pet project multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).