FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the opening ceremony for the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/Pool/File Photo
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China next week to meet its leaders and deliver a keynote speech at the vast Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the South Asian nation’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as economic anxiety grows at home.
China has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure loans for Pakistan, touted as a success story of its Belt and Road initiative, which aims to build road and maritime trading routes across the globe.
But Pakistan’s economy has hit serious turbulence over the past year and Islamabad is now finalizing a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stave off a balance of payments crisis, despite more than $10 billion in short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia.
Khan will visit China from April 25, and give a keynote speech at the three-day Belt and Road Forum that starts the following day. The high-profile gathering is one of China’s biggest annual state events.
“In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, the Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang,” the ministry said in a statement.
The two countries will sign several pacts to enhance cooperation, and Khan will meet corporate and business leaders, it added.
Khan’s visit to Pakistan’s all-weather friend China comes as his government, in power since August, faces a deepening economic crisis, with a ballooning current account deficit and fast-depleting foreign reserves.
It initially tried to avoid an IMF bailout by securing loans from friendly countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but has since changed tack and said it had agreed in principle to turn to the IMF.
The long-delayed rescue package would be Pakistan’s 13th IMF bailout program since the late 1980s.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Clarence Fernandez