Imran Khan’s upcoming visit to China is a very important meeting for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government in light of recent events. While meeting on the home ground of one of our closest allies, it is important that PM Khan takes the personal relationship with the President of China and their Foreign Office further. A personal connection with the Chinese state will greatly assist Pakistan in improving its economic fortunes in the coming years; China and Pakistan have already established that they can reap mutual benefits of China’s economic progress if they take advantage of the geo-strategic placement, and it is hoped that the Prime Minister can help establish China’s trust in Pakistan’s economic policy.
Key to all of this of course, is the impression that Pakistan has been slowly getting disinterested in the much-touted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); it will be up to Imran Khan to restore China’s confidence in Pakistan’s seriousness in continuing work on the project. During the previous government’s tenure, all state institutions, the ruling party and opposition members unilaterally agreed that CPEC would bring a windfall of economic opportunity to Pakistan and started work on it with urgency. This work has nearly come to a complete halt in many projects surrounding the Corridor – with the Lahore Orange Metro Line Train as a prime example – and the government, under the leadership of Imran Khan, must reiterate Pakistan’s commitment to completing the project in this visit. It is important to remember that Pakistan can only benefit from becoming a successful transit route for trade if all the infrastructure is in place; any loans taken to complete that infrastructure will keep making a dent in our pockets unless CPEC is fully functional, at least in terms of transporting goods through Pakistan and out through Gwadar in large amounts.
The PTI government is no doubt in a tricky position; loans from both China and the IMF entail that the government must engage in a balancing act, where both parties will see financial help from the other as a boon to their rivals. However, while the IMF only provides financial assistance – with additional burdens attached – the Chinese government’s loans might come with similar liabilities but also provide a strong friend on our north, one that will only protect Pakistan if we provide it with enough economic incentive to do so. Needless to say, this will be one of the more important trips of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister of the country.