BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan next week to oversee agreements on pipelines, power plants and other projects as part of a massive $46 billion joint development program that Beijing hopes will stabilize its longtime ally's economy and extend China's influence in western Asia.
China and Pakistan have long maintained close political and military relations, based partly on mutual antipathy toward neighbor India. However, stronger China-India ties have challenged that perception and Xi's visit seems intended to reassure Pakistan that relations remain robust.
Following the postponement of his trip last year, Xi went ahead with a visit to India, with whom China is eager to boost trade and investment. Indian President Narendra Modi is also due to visit Beijing in the coming weeks.
China is a leading arms supplier to Pakistan and has sought its help in combating anti-Chinese Islamic separatists reportedly hiding in the country's lawless tribal areas. China is also eager to enlist Pakistan's help in stabilizing Afghanistan as U.S. troops wind down their presence there.
Xi will be traveling with a large business delegation and is expected to oversee the signing of investment agreements with Pakistan worth billions of dollars, particularly in the energy and transportation industries.
Such deals are key components in China's plan for a China-Pakistan "economic corridor" that is expected to absorb $46 billion in investment over the coming decades.
"Ground has already broken on some projects, so we can now say the China-Pakistan economic corridor is now in the implementation stage," Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told reporters at a briefing Friday.
Pakistan's development has long been hindered by political strife such as the protests in the capital Islamabad in calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation that prompted Xi to put off his visit in September.
Xi will visit Pakistan on Monday and Tuesday before traveling to Indonesia, the Foreign Ministry said.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said Xi will hold talks with Sharif, along with the heads of the Pakistani armed forces.
"During the visit, the two sides will review all aspects of their bilateral relations and also exchange views on regional issues and international developments," the ministry said in a statement.
Xi's visit would "further consolidate the existing 'all weather relations' between Pakistan and China, in all areas of importance, especially political, economic and strategic," it said.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report from Islamabad, Pakistan.