Twitter giggles as China, Pakistan launch RANDI think tank

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day visit to Pakistan has been replete with flowery rhetoric extolling mutual love between both countries, but the name chosen for a new joint think tank has left some social media users in titters.

Dedicated to research on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a US$46 billion (S$62.12 billion) plan linking China's restive west to the Arabian Sea, the newly inaugurated Research and Development International (RANDI) organisation has been widely pilloried because its acronym sounds like "whore" in Urdu and Hindi.

Social media users, including many from India - Islamabad and Beijing's historic rival - have latched on to the name as a form of commentary on Sino-Pak relations, saying the South Asian country has now been 'bought' by China.

"Well, that's an unfortunate name for a think tank..." tweeted Fatima Bhutto, a writer and political activist, in one of the more understated responses.

"#Pakistan is now officially #China's #RANDI," said another user Chandan Sandhu.

Others criticised those who ridiculed the name and accused them of misogyny, as a cartoon circulated on Twitter portraying Pakistan as a prostitute and China as a punter.

According to a press release, the think tank will be co-headed by Madame Zhao Baige, a member of China's parliament, and Mushahid Hussain, a Pakistani opposition senator.

"The new think tank is the first joint initiative of China and Pakistan which will be dedicated to research on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor," said Mushahid, who added it was associated with the prestigious Tsinghua University.

The economic corridor will create a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China's restive west to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan as part of Beijing's plans to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia.

The project dwarfs previous efforts to assist Pakistan's underperforming economy, but analysts have cautioned that the lion's share of the returns would likely go to China.