BEIJING: China said on Thursday development work on 19 of 50 projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was already under way.

“It will not be affected by a change in government in Islamabad,” a senior official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs told a group of visiting Pakistani journalists at the foreign office.

“It makes no difference (to China) who comes in (government) and who goes out as both countries have brotherly relations. What matters more is the timely completion of these projects, which we are closely watching. Since the CPEC is a flagship programme of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, it is very much important for us and we are keen on its timely completion. We also want Pakistan to seize this opportunity. It must not lose it,” he said.

Says it is not concerned about foreign, local criticism of the multi-billion-dollar project

Asian Affairs Department’s Deputy Division Director Liu Pengfei said China wants to complete the CPEC at the earliest because the initiative is important for the people of both countries.

“At the moment, we are satisfied with the pace of CPEC projects. But they will pick up further speed once the infrastructure situation improves in Pakistan,” he said, adding that Punjab will get more benefit along with other provinces from this project.

As for criticism of the CPEC by foreign and local parties, Mr Liu said, “We are not concerned about voices — foreign or local — against the CPEC. This project will benefit the people of both countries. We have to ensure its timely completion come what may. We want to let everyone know that China is a brother of Pakistan and stands by it.”

The United States alleged last month that the CPEC worth $56 billion passed through disputed territory. Its allegation was in reference to Pakistan’s northern areas, which India claims are part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory. “The OBOR also goes through the disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” US Secretary of Defence James Mattis had alleged.

Mr Liu said, “The CPEC is not passing through any disputed territory in Pakistan.” He said Pakistan and India should resolve the Kashmir issue through peaceful dialogue.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2017