China on Friday tacitly endorsed Pakistan’s decision to scrap the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority amid reports of growing rift between the all-weather friends over the slow pace of the USD 60 billion project and Islamabad’s failure to provide credible security to hundreds of Chinese personnel working on a host of projects.
China has taken a note of the relevant information, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here when asked about Pakistan government’s decision to scrap the CPEC Authority, an official body constituted by the previous Imran Khan government.
“China understands the efforts of the Pakistani side dedicated to integrating resources, improving efficiency and adjusting institutions,” Wang said without directly stating whether Beijing has given consent to Pakistan on the scrapping of the CPEC Authority.
“We believe that future communications will be even closer and smoother and CPEC building will achieve the greatest results,” Wang said.
Before the decision to scrap the CPEC Authority, Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque met China’s External Security Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry Cheng Guoping on August 16.
While the details of the meeting were not disclosed, a Chinese Foreign Ministry press release said the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on China-Pakistan relations, counter-terrorism and security cooperation between the two countries, among other things.
On Wednesday, media reports from Pakistan said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to abolish CPEC Authority but the decision is subjected to getting the consent of China, which reportedly spent so far about USD 28 billion on a host of CPEC projects, whose progress was stalled due reasons of security as well as tardy implementation by the Pakistan government.
Launched in 2015, CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has objected to CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Recent reports said trouble is brewing between the all-weather friends with China increasingly getting critical of Pakistan’s failure in protecting hundreds of Chinese workers who came under periodic attacks from the militant groups.
In April, three Chinese were killed in a suicide bombing in Karachi University by Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which opposed China’s investments in Balochistan.
With recurring attacks, China is reportedly pressing Pakistan to permit the Chinese agencies to provide security for their personnel which according to press reports, Islamabad is resisting as it meant boots on the ground for Chinese armed forces.
Beijing is also concerned over the acute financial crisis faced by Pakistan, prompting it to step in periodically to bail it out with induction of foreign exchange loans.
Pakistani daily The Express Tribune reported on August 18 that the Chinese authorities were irritated because of Pakistan’s decision to put CPEC on the back burner over the past four years.
They were particularly irked by Islamabad’s failure to honour its contractual obligations under the CPEC framework, the report said.
The CPEC projects were also facing delays because of the change in taxation policies by the last government in violation of commitments given to China, the report said.
The previous Imran Khan government had last year withdrawn the sales tax exemption on imports. Under the initial CPEC plan, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were supposed to be ready by 2020, but in the last four years, there has been zero progress on them, the report said.