ISLAMABAD: The government on Saturday said it would continue to accord top priority to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The assurance was extended to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi by his host Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who noted that his government saw it as a significant project for the socioeconomic development of the country.
Mr Wang is on a three-day visit to Pakistan — the first by a senior Chinese official since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government assumed office last month.
The visit is meant to engage with the new government, re-emphasise the importance of bilateral ties and learn about its position on relations particularly with regard to CPEC.
Wang rejects impression that CPEC projects are compounding Pakistan’s debt burden
Diplomatic observers are taking a keen interest in the project because of the evolving regional situation in which new alignments are emerging. Pakistan and China, which have a longstanding relationship, are seen to be getting further closer.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Wang, the Pakistani foreign minister said: “The CPEC will remain a priority for the government.”
Mr Qureshi reassured Mr Wang that Pakistan and China had a time-tested relationship, which would not be affected by the change of governments.
“The two sides expressed their convergence that social economic development will be an important area under CPEC cooperation between Pakistan and China,” the Foreign Office said in a statement on the meeting that preceded the press talk.
The Chinese minister too reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to the relationship. He said that Pakistan would always be a priority for China in its foreign policy.
“The State Councillor reiterated that Pakistan was China’s ‘iron brother’ and the bilateral partnership served as an anchor for regional peace and stability. China will work with Pakistan to prioritise CPEC projects so as to benefit all regions of Pakistan,” said the FO.
At the press conference, Mr Wang rejected the impression that CPEC projects were compounding Pakistan’s debt burden.
Twenty-two projects were undertaken as part of the CPEC, out of which nine have been completed while 13 are in progress.
He said that contrary to the perception that CPEC projects were behind Pakistan’s growing debt burden, the mega project was helping increase growth rate of Pakistani economy by 1-2 per cent every year, besides creating around 70,000 jobs.
Mr Wang said that Pakistan and China were ready to include in the mega project any other country that might be interested in it, to extend its benefits to the entire region.
Talking to Gen Qamar Bajwa at the GHQ, the Chinese minister said Pakistan’s contribution to regional peace and security needed to be acknowledged by the world.
He expressed his satisfaction over the security measures taken for the CPEC projects and the Chinese personnel working on the projects.
Matters relating to regional security and bilateral cooperation were discussed during the meeting, the ISPR said.
Gen Bajwa thanked Mr Wang for Beijing’s continued support to Pakistan. He said that Pakistan had suffered from “global contestation” but was now poised to claim its rightful place in the comity of nations through commitment to peace and stability both within and without.
Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018