China has claimed “massive support from all sectors in Pakistan” for the USD 46 billion CPEC project as it hosts a high-level conference here tomorrow, days after a Pakistani army general invited India to be a part of the ambitious venture. China is also expected to announce a USD 1 billion soft loan at the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in which Pakistan’s Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal and chief ministers of all the Pakistan provinces are expected to participate, report on the official website of the CPEC said.
The JCC, which includes chief ministers of Pakistani provinces, is expected to discuss steps to ensure smooth construction of the CPEC which is a prestigious project for President Xi Jinping. Lt Gen Amir Riaz, Commander of Pakistan’s Southern Command had said that India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.
Subsequently, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also wondered about India’s reaction to the Pakistani general’s remarks. “I wonder what is India’s take on this whether this is a good sign from Pakistan,” Hua said reacting to Riaz’s remarks, adding that China has an open mind on India’s participation. “Surprise aside (over the general’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in state-run Global Times.
Ahead of the conference, Pakistani media reported that Islamabad is likely to secure a USD 1 billion soft loan for three road projects under the CPEC. Reports quoted Ashraf Zaman, spokesman for Pakistan’s National Highway Authority (NHA) as saying the roads are on the western route of CPEC, a mega network of roads, rail links, power plants and other infrastructure connecting western China’s Xinjiang province to Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar.
Zaman said a deal was reached with the Chinese to finance the three additional roads in November. Asked about the loan and the meeting, Hua told a media briefing here today that she has no information on the loan and the meeting. At the same time she said the “CPEC has drawn massive support from all sectors in Pakistan. We would like to work with the Pakistani side to press ahead with the development of the CPEC,” she said.
Her comments followed reports in the Pakistani and Chinese media about criticism within Pakistan over the project on which India has also raised objections as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).