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More details of 7th JCC meeting on CPEC trickle out

Updated December 08, 2017

KARACHI: In a series of tweets, Chinese diplomat Lijian Zhao has shared a full list of the various projects and agreements finalised and discussed during the 7th Joint Cooperation Council (JCC) meeting held in Islamabad between November 21 and 22.

The tweets appear to be on behalf of the National Develo­pment Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, which is the counterpart of the Planning Commission in Pakistan, jointly responsible for giving shape to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over the long run.

A total of six documents were signed, including the Long Term Plan for CPEC which is to run from 2017 till 2030. In addition, minutes of the 7th JCC were also approved by both sides, as well as those from the meeting of the Joint Working Groups on Gwadar, Energy and Industrial Parks. Implementation minutes on New Gwadar International Airport were also finalised.

The subsequent JCC will work on commercial contract and financing arrangement for the Main Line 1 (ML1) project which envisions a high speed rail link between Karachi and Peshawar. This is the single largest project in CPEC. In addition to ML1, “3 new infrastructure projects will accelerate talks on signing commercial contracts and financing agreements” Zhao says.

Feasibility reports for nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) “were handed over to Chinese side” he says, adding that three of them, “Rashakai, Dhabeji and M-3 in Faisalabad seemed most feasible.” The language is non-committal on whether any decision was made to begin construction on these yet, or whether further work is needed before work begins.

For Gwadar, the NDRC notes the beginning of the construction of East Bay Expressway, whose ground breaking was held after the JCC meeting, and “Gwadar power plant and Gwadar Expo will be inaugurated very soon. Major projects will be completed in Gwadar Free Zone by early 2018”.

Regarding the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, the NDRC is quoted by the diplomat as saying that “China and Pakistan discussing Bhasha dam project under CPEC energy expert group. However it has not been included in list of energy projects. Recent media report on Bhasha dam was not accurate, or reflected on personal view of an individual official.”

The reference is to news reports from a parliamentary committee during which a former Chairman Wapda claimed that the Diamer-Bhasha project is being cancelled due to the stringent conditions attached by the Chinese side for its financing. The report was never formally clarified by any government body.

Mr Zhao made no mention of the reported demand from the Chinese side to allow the Yuan to be used as legal tender in Gwadar. Regarding news reports that Pakistan will receive 9 per cent of Gwadar Port’s earnings, he shared a published clarification issued by the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) chairman. In the clarification, the chairman confirms that the GPA will get “9pc of the gross revenue from port and marine service businesses and 15pc of the free zone businesses.”

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2017