From K J M Varma Beijing, Feb 28: China will formally kick off its much publicised Silk Road project next month by signing first pacts with Pakistan and Kazakhstan while its ambitious USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project, a key facility for the Maritime Silk Road, may have to wait until the completion of review by new Sri Lankan government.
China will sign a series of agreements with countries including Kazakhstan and Pakistan next month as part of Beijing's plan to stimulate economic development along the ancient Silk Road, the Shanghai Securities News reported. China has already operationalised its USD 40 billion Silk Road project.
It will be headed by central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan - creating the vehicle for a New Silk Road economic corridor running over land as well as a maritime version covering key seaborne trade lanes. Shen Jianguang, chief China economist at Mizuho Securities Asia, said some of the investment agreements would likely be unveiled after the annual parliamentary sessions next month, marking the first investments under the fund.
"I am expecting to see significant progress in infrastructure projects in Pakistan and Kazakhstan as China had been working on these projects before the Silk Road fund was set up," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted Shen as saying. The Pakistan part of the Silk Road project connects China's Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Balochistan through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) with an Economic Corridor involving billions of dollars of investments.
Meanwhile, the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project in the Indian Ocean may have to wait as Sri Lanka formally informed China about the review of Chinese investments in island made during then President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in view of allegations of corruption. On his first visit to Beijing, Lanka's new Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday said that many projects including that of Chinese are being reviewed due to graft allegations.
"Regarding what is called Colombo port city, we did not discuss that issue in particular but we discussed about Chinese investments in Sri Lanka," he said, adding that after a review of the project, anything relating to Chinese investments will be shared and discussed with the government of China before any final decision is taken.