China doesn't touch the Indian Ocean, but it soon intends to have access to it. Chinese president Xi Jinping is currently on a two-day trip to Pakistan to finalize a big investment in its links with its neighbor: $45 billion to be spent on energy and infrastructure projects, the AP reports. The BBC reports that the central effort will be a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, made up of roads, rails, and pipelines linking China and Pakistan across 1,865 miles. With the corridor running between Kashgar in China's western Xinjiang province and the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, it will provide the Chinese with a direct route to the Indian Ocean.
The effort is central to bolstering China's economic sway in the region, the BBC notes, and the Guardian gives context to the new route: China must currently reach the Middle East's oil-producing countries via a longer path that winds through the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca, which is traffic-heavy and frequented by pirates. "The real opportunity of this China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is that it changes the scope of the relationship from geopolitics to geo-economics," the Pakistani official in charge of the effort tells AFP. The countries will also partner to yield 16,400 megawatts of electricity through gas, coal, and solar projects, AFP notes; the resulting energy, the minister says, matches the current capacity of all of Pakistan. One possible hurdle, Reuters notes, is the corridor's path through Baluchistan province, home to a separatist insurgency.