ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has asked India to benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, instead of criticising it.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, he advised New Delhi to review its short-sighted approach towards the project. He said the “CPEC is purely an economic development project that would bring prosperity. India should get benefit from the project rather than pursuing unnecessary criticism”.

Mr Iqbal said India’s reaction to the CPEC was not positive and sooner or later it would realise that the project would benefit the entire region. “The CPEC would bring prosperity to the region, including China and Pakistan,” he added.

Stressing the need for strengthening cooperation in the region, the minister said the resolution of the issues didn’t lie in tensions and disputes among regional countries. He said India held the key to peace in South Asia and that country could not progress without cooperation.

He said the future of Asian countries depended on promotion of trade and commerce and connectivity through transport corridors.

“Transport corridors help connect the countries and play a pivotal role in economic integration, trade development and regional connectivity across the globe,” he added.

The minister said Pakistan was also making progress on other corridors in order to enhance its connectivity through the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooper–ation. The regional cooperation was opening new opportunities for growth and progress, he said.

The minister said South Asia was the least integrated region in the world and that is why regional countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, were ranked among least developed countries in terms of social indicators. He stressed the need for developing more markets to create demand for growth and said it was only possible through enhanced cooperation and connectivity among regions as well as with other markets of the world.

“The CPEC is not only an economic integration project of the region, but it would also open ways for market access to Central Asian states and through Central Asia to other parts of the world,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018