Pakistan and China on Monday, expressing satisfaction at the steady development of CPEC projects, agreed on its centrality for Pakistan’s socio-economic development. The bilateral ties including the CPEC were discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and He Lifeng, Vice Premier of China and Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, a PM Office statement said. At the invitation of the Government of Pakistan, the Special Envoy of President Xi Jinping He Lifeng is visiting Islamabad to attend the 10th-anniversary celebrations of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Both sides expressed their firm commitment to continue working together for realizing the shared objectives of the CPEC. It was also agreed that 10th anniversary of CPEC celebrations constituted a fresh starting point to further expand CPEC as envisaged by the leadership of the two countries. The conversation was marked by traditional warmth and cordiality that has been the hallmark of Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership. During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on several aspects of bilateral relationship including CPEC and bilateral economic and financial cooperation. Welcoming Vice-Premier He Lifeng to Pakistan, the prime minister congratulated him on being promoted as the Vice-Premier of China in March this year. Appreciating China’s support for Pakistan’s economic development, the prime minister observed that as strategic partners and trusted friends, the two countries had always stood by each other in difficult times, as evidenced by Chinese support to Pakistan in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic and devastating floods in Pakistan. Noting the unanimity of views between the two countries on regional issues, both leaders reiterated their resolve to support each other on all issues of their core interests. In his remarks, Vice Premier He conveyed President Xi Jinping’s message of China’s firm support to Pakistan’s prosperity and development. Vice Premier He Lifeng underlined that Pakistan-China friendship was unique and had withstood the vicissitude of time due to deep fraternal ties between the peoples of two nations. He reiterated that as an iron-brother and strategic partner, China would continue its existing economic and financial support to Pakistan. Welcoming the prime minister’s vision for deepening trade and investment ties, the Chinese vice premier conveyed China’s willingness to enhance Pakistan’s agro and food exports to China. The Chinese delegation included Guo Wei, Deputy Secretary General of the State Council of China, Sun Weidong, Vice Minister of Foreign Ministry, Cong Liang, Vice Chairman National Development & Reform Commission, Xuan Changneng, Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Wang Kebing, Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Wang Liping, Director General of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce, Pang Chunxue, Charge d’Affaires, Chinese Embassy Islamabad and other senior Chinese officials. The Pakistan side included Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Commerce, Muhammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance, Rana Sanaullah Khan, Minister for Interior, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for Information, Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister for Railways, Hina Rabbani Khar, MOS for Foreign Affairs, Syed Tariq Fatemi, SAPM and senior officials from relevant ministries. After the meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Vice Premier He oversaw the ceremony for signing of agreements, MoUs and other documents, covering areas including agriculture; industrial cooperation; transport connectivity, etc. Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif said over the last ten years, CPEC had emerged as a bedrock of Pakistan’s socio-economic trajectory, helping to end crippling energy shortages, building high quality infrastructure, and promoting connectivity and integration not only within the country’s various regions but also with the neighbouring countries. The prime minister, in a post on his Twitter account, said, “I was greatly delighted to receive Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng and the members of his delegation who came to Pakistan to join us in celebrating the Decade of CPEC. As a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, he brought with him a message of abiding friendship with Pakistan and its people. “For us, CPEC is not merely a collection of different projects but a symbol of prosperity and shared development. It is a reflection of our relentless fight against poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. While the first phase of CPEC was about fixing the ‘hardware’ side of development, the upcoming second phase will upgrade the ‘software’ of development by focusing on agriculture, science and technology, skill development, innovation, industrialization, economic growth, health and education. “On this occasion, I would like to pay rich tributes to President Xi Jinping, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for their pioneering role in conceiving and implementing CPEC as a flagship project of the Belt & Road Initiative. President Xi’s global leadership and vision of shared development is making a huge difference in the betterment of our world, especially the Global South. “As PM, I am happy to play my humble part in removing all the bottlenecks in the way of CPEC and putting it back on track. Together China and Pakistan will redefine not only the destiny of their people but also of the region.” Meanwhile, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on highlighted salient features of six memorandums of understanding signed by Pakistan and China to enhance bilateral cooperation and promote strong economic ties. A Planning Ministry news release said that since the incumbent government came into power in April 2022, the CPEC projects had been revived which remained neglected in the past. During the signing ceremony, the minutes of the 11th Meeting of Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on CPEC were also signed. “This document comprised the decisions and outcomes of the 11th meeting of the JCC on CPEC held on October 27, 2022.” It was signed by Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China Cong Liang and Federal Mistier for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Professor Ahsan Iqbal. The other MoU pertained to establishing an Expert Exchange Mechanism within the Framework of the CPEC. It aimed to setting up an expert exchange mechanism between the Ministry of Planning, Development of Special Initiatives, and NDRC of China, to facilitate knowledge sharing between them. The objective of the MoU, also signed by NDRC Vice Chairman Cong Liang and Planning Minister Professor Ahsan Iqbal, was to obtain intellectual support and consultation for China-Pakistan capacity-building cooperation and conduct in-depth exchanges of Chinese experts with the Pakistani Government and enterprises by sharing China’s experience, contributing Chinese solutions and helping Pakistan meet international standards more timely and efficiently. The MoU on Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for Export of Dried Chilies from Pakistan to China was also signed. It outlined the phytosanitary requirements for the export of dried chilies from Pakistan to China. The signatories for this protocol were Chinese Charge Chargé d’ Affaires to Pakistan Pang Chunxue, on behalf of the General Administration of Customs of China, and Secretary Ministry of National Food Security & Research of Pakistan Zafar Hasan. Similarly, the MoU on the Acknowledgement of Receipt of Realignment of KKH Phase-II (Thakot-Raikot) Project Feasibility Study Final Report was also signed by Chinese Chargé d’Affaires to Pakistan Pang Chunxue, on behalf of the Ministry of Transport of China, and Member Planning, National Highway Authority, Ministry of Communications of Pakistan, Asim Ameen. This document acknowledged the receipt of the final report on the feasibility study for the realignment of the KKH Phase-II (Thakot-Raikot) Project. The MoU on “Strengthening Workers’ Exchange Programme was signed between the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the Board of Investment, Pakistan under the ambit of CPEC Industrial Cooperation to foster exchange programmers of the workforce associated with CPEC projects for skill development, technical training, language courses, and Chinese experience sharing in SEZs development by providing a platform to augment meaningful people-to-people exchanges. The MoU would be instrumental in strengthening the Pak-China Industrial Cooperation and the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) through Chinese intellectual support. It would further enhance the competitiveness of CPEC’s workforce to meet the local industrial requirements and also supported the requirements of skilled labor to attract Chinese industrial relocation envisaged through CPEC Industrial Cooperation. Furthermore, the Agreement on the Announcement of the Minutes of the 21st Conference of Technical Committees on Promoting the (ML-1) Project was also signed. The ML-1 project, a crucial element of the CPEC, held the promise of transforming Pakistan’s transportation system. Both Pakistan and China had made noteworthy strides in preliminary technical work. In the agreement, both sides resolved to push forward the strategic ML1 initiative. By focusing on cost-efficiency, justified capital outlays, and maximized economic returns, the ML-1 project would unfold in a systematic and phased approach.