Former ambassadors to Beijing and international experts said that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week was likely to bring in more investment into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Xi’s visit comes at a time when Riyadh is seeking to expand global alliances beyond its longstanding partnership with the West.
During the visit, Xi is scheduled to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other heads of state from Gulf Arab states. Saudi Arabia and China are expected to sign over 20 agreements worth more than $29.3 billion and will discuss a plan to harmonize the implementation of Saudi’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Xi’s signature infrastructure investment initiative that includes CPEC, Arab News reported.
Under the CPEC project, China has pledged over $60 billion in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, IT and various other schemes in Pakistan. At the heart of the project is a Chinese-funded deep-water port in Pakistan’s southwestern town of Gwadar in Balochistan province.
The CPEC project, Pakistani experts hope, would figure in Xi’s meetings with the Saudi crown prince.
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“Saudi Arabia is interested in becoming part of CPEC by investing heavily in it and is also interested in BRI,” Pakistan’s former ambassador to China, Naghmana Hashmi, said in an interview with Arab News.
“This visit will improve things in this regard as China is the main initiator of both mega projects.”
“The growing friendship between China and Saudi Arabia will benefit Pakistan as the country has very good relations with both, and both are pillars of strength for us,” Hashmi added.
International relations expert Zafar Jaspal said the visit would have a “constructive and positive impact” on CPEC.
“[The visit] will open the way for Saudi investment in Gwadar and other parts of the [CPEC] project, especially in the petro industry as the kingdom’s leadership has expressed in the past,” Jaspal said.
International affairs expert Dr Huma Baqai said CPEC could be a “great convergence point” between the three countries and “give the requisite push and momentum to intended Saudi investment in the flagship project of the BRI.”
Former ambassador Javed Hafeez, experienced in Middle East affairs, said Saudi Arabia was diversifying its international relations and trying to improve relations with all powers, including China, Russia, the US and other Western countries.