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China, Pakistan to mark mega infrastructure anniversary

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“STRONGER THAN THE HIMALAYAS”

The two countries share a 596-kilometre frontier near the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Mountains, one of the world’s tallest ranges.

Pakistan politicians frequently trot out the phrase “stronger than the Himalayas, deeper than the ocean, and sweeter than honey” to portray the depth and closeness of the relationship with China.

But ties have been strained by numerous hurdles in recent years, including stalled or scaled-back CPEC projects.

The economic corridor presents an attractive gateway for China to access the Indian Ocean, but the safety and security of its workers has been a longstanding concern.

On Sunday at least 44 people were killed and dozens more wounded by a suicide bombing at a political gathering of a leading Islamic party in northwest Pakistan.

The CPEC corridor linking China’s far-western Xinjiang region with Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar in Balochistan has sparked claims that the vast influx of investment does not benefit locals.

Baloch separatists have claimed several attacks on CPEC projects, and thousands of Pakistani security personnel are deployed to counter threats against Chinese interests.

In April 2021, five people were killed in an attack claimed by Pakistan’s Taliban at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in Quetta.

Months later, 12 people – including nine Chinese workers – were killed by a blast aboard a bus carrying staff to the Dasu dam site.

Islamabad blamed the explosion on a “gas leak” but Beijing insisted it was a bomb attack.

“Security stands out as the core problem that hinders the realisation of Chinese goals,” Khalid told AFP.

“This factor is the primary reason why CPEC has not reached its full functional potential yet.”

Ahead of the visit, banners celebrating the anniversary and flags of both countries have been put on display across Pakistan’s capital.

Security is on high alert, and a two-day public holiday has been ordered for Islamabad to keep people off the streets.

Pakistan deftly manages relations with China and the United States, seeking a balance between its strategic interests and regional dynamics.

Arch-rival India has more fractious relations with China, with the two sides coming to blows along their frontier on occasion.

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