Xinjiang province, a region in western-china known for being prone to violence, signs $2 billion deals with Pakistan this week in a visit by Xinjiang’s top official to Pakistan, seeking to solidify ties with a country it considers a partner in the promotion of security.
Last year, Pakistan signed a $46 billion deal with China for energy and infrastructure projects intended to implement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
China, in turn, will get free access to trade in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and a gateway to the Arabian Sea. The new Pakistani roads will allow Chinese goods to enter Europe and the Middle East which is a positive for Xinjiang as it borders Pakistan.
On his four-day visit to Pakistan, Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang’s Communist Party chief met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, visited Islamabad, Karachi and Gwadar, according to the official Xinjiang Daily.
“China and Pakistan have a deep friendship, are good neighbours, friends, brothers and partners,” the newspaper cited Zhang as saying.
“On this trip, I have deeply felt this friendship and the atmosphere surrounding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
The $2 billion agreements covered projects ranging from infrastructure, solar power and logistics, among others and was signed by Xinjiang companies with their Pakistani colleagues, the paper added.
Both countries (China and Pakistan) describe each other as “all-weather friends” and they both share a wariness of their common neighbor, India.
However, China has advised Pakistan to remove supposed militants from Xinjiang, who may be residing in the Pakistan-Afghan border, a haven for militant groups.
In the meeting with Sharif, both countries agreed to continue striving towards combating terrorism and towards strengthening border security, regional peace, and stability and ensuring safe economic corridor projects.
Zhang, additionally, met with Pakistan’s military on the trip.
Nonetheless, Xinjiang has been a victim of unrest leading to the deaths of hundred people in the last few years.
Chinese controls on Muslim Uighur people’s religion and culture is deemed by exile and rights groups, as the reason behind the violence.
However, China denied that it was violating any rights in Xinjiang and says that people are free to practice Islam.
Included in Zhang’s visit was a mosque in Islamabad, where he “got a deep understanding of Pakistan’s religious affairs management”.