A top Chinese official has expressed concern over the prevailing political instability in Pakistan that could negatively impact the pace of the projects started under the ambitious USD 50 billion CPEC initiative, according to a media report on Wednesday.
The Chinese delegation expressed weariness during the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) meeting held here yesterday. The meeting was co-chaired by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is also Minister for Planning and Development Reforms and Wang Xiaotao, Vice Chairman of National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China.
The delegation complained about the political instability in Pakistan that would negatively impact on the pace of the CPEC progress, official sources were quoted as saying by the Dawn News. According to officials, in Pakistan alone, China is reported to have committed to invest USD 50 billion and some estimates even put the amount to more than USD 60 billion in the ambitious CPEC project, connecting China’s Xinjiang province with Balochistan’s Gwadar port.
India has protested to China over the CPEC project as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir(PoK) and boycotted a high-profile Belt and Road Forum organised by Beijing in May. Iqbal said that in 2014 Pakistan Tekree-e-Insaf’s chief Imran Khan’s sit-in had delayed the CPEC launching.
He alleged that various methods and attempts were being made to “crash” Pakistan’s economic takeoff. Despite hiccups, the JCC approved the Long-Term Plan (LTP 2017-30) envisaging broad parameters for future cooperation, but could not conclude agreements on development projects and special economic/industrial zones, the report said. They also could not finalise taxation issues and stood short of final agreement on inclusion for financing of special economic zones. He said two hydropower projects of a joint capacity of 180MW in Gilgit-Baltistan had been made part of the CPEC framework.
Iqbal, who is Pakistan’s focal person for the CPEC, said the LTP had been under preparation for several months involving consultations among all stakeholders in Pakistan and China. “Today we have reached the agreement and approved the LTP that will encompass bilateral economic cooperation until 2030.” He said the CPEC’s first phase involved removing energy and infrastructure bottlenecks in Pakistan to make them enablers of economic growth and hence USD 35 billion out of USD 46 billion portfolio went to the energy sector, resulting in USD 27 billion worth of projects now in implementation stage.
The minister said the LTP has now finalised a comprehensive framework for bilateral cooperation, particularly towards industrialisation, value-addition and job creation. Under the framework, he added, investments would now flow to the special economic zones, while a joint working group (JWG) on agriculture had been created because China had made great progress from moving out of low value commodities to technological advancements in agriculture output.
The meeting agreed to expedite work on the Gwadar Port and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would inaugurate the Gwadar Eastbay Expressway project later today. Iqbal said the 19km expressway also included a 4.5km bridge over the sea that would link the Gwadar Port with the Eastern side. He said the two sides also agreed that work on the Gwadar airport should start by the middle of next year. He said the two sides “exchanged views on issues of taxation and security and formulated a working group to settle issues of taxes in a comprehensive manner.”