KARACHI: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) the time-tested ties and relationship between China and Pakistan have attained new heights that will evolve and grow for the betterment of the region and beyond.
Speaking at the CPEC Summit 2018 organised by the Dawn Media Group and the Ministry of Planning and Development with the participation of the Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Bagh-i-Jinnah here on Monday, the prime minister said that just three years ago the CPEC had been an unknown word, but today it was known not only in Pakistan but all over the world.
He said that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — the vision of Chinese President Xi Jinping — was the real push behind the cooperation mechanism of which the CPEC was an integral part today.
“It connects Western China with Pakistan and the sea as trade routes are developed not only within Pakistan but also Afghanistan, Central Asia and the West. So today, Afghanistan also recognises the benefits of CPEC. It is an opportunity for all the people living in this region,” the prime minister said.
Ahsan Iqbal says CPEC is not a debt trap, it is a partnership
“It is not just a partnership between two countries. It provides Pakistan with platform for development. Since President Xi Jinping has signed the agreement, CPEC is becoming a reality. Transmission lines are being laid. Highways, motorways and road networks are being developed as are railways. The special economic zones to build businesses and increase trade will be the fruits of CPEC,” he said, adding that several projects under the CPEC, including Thar coal, were already coming on line.
The prime minister said that principles of the CPEC had been designed keeping in view economic viability and environmental sustainability.
“The future programmes of CPEC would basically adhere to the vision of President Xi Jinping and the shared benefits and betterment of both countries,” he concluded.
Earlier, Minister for Interior and Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said it was important to adopt new dynamics for the uplift of the country’s economy.
“Today in this fast moving world, economies are defining the future of nations. Asia is becoming the new engine of growth in the world economy. It is estimated that by 2050 Asia will contribute 52 per cent to world GDP. South Asia, China and Central Asia where three billion people live are the new engines of growth. Pakistan has a great opportunity by being located at the intersection of these three engines of growth,” he said.
“If we can create economic corridors in this region, Pakistan can become a hub of trade, commerce and manufacturing for global supply chains to this part of the world,” he explained.
Mr Iqbal said they started the CPEC journey in 2013 when the Chinese premier visited Pakistan, met then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and discussed the idea of starting this new journey with Pakistan.
“The memorandum of understanding we signed on our visit to Beijing on July 5, 2013 was then only an intention on a piece of paper. But within a couple of years that piece of paper became the portfolio of 42 billion dollars of which 29 billion dollars have already been utilised on the Belt and Road Initiative of China,” he said.
Taking about the issue of people’s reservations over the CPEC project, the minister said it would bring opportunities for Pakistan and all players of the region. He said the CPEC was not a dept trap but a partnership. “It is all investment. There are no loans. There should be nothing to fear by Pakistan’s businesses and there are 85 million jobs created too,” he cleared.
On the occasion, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said they were looking at a new model of cooperation with Pakistan based on openness, inclusiveness and exclusiveness. “China wants to see our relationship with Pakistan as a pillar, as a new era. CPEC is a very significant project not just for China and Pakistan but the entire world,” he said.
“For further development and cooperation, we are looking at all our neighbours and partners of which Pakistan is the most important. CPEC is a new model of partnership showing how we can deliver for the development of the whole Pakistani nation.
“There is the development of Gwadar Port in Balochistan, development of roads and highways and energy, too. CPEC demonstrates the devotion of both countries and regular connectivity of both nations,” he said.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said his government was fully geared up to derive maximum benefits out of the CPEC for people because it was not merely a road construction project but multi-sector development process which would transform the economic landscape of Pakistan.
He said the Sindh government was also focusing on removal of energy and infrastructure bottlenecks and, in collaboration with international agencies and other stakeholders, had finalised a comprehensive sector-wise development plan that encompassed both CPEC and non-CPEC initiatives for short-, mid- and long-term goals. “This plan lays special emphasis on energy and infrastructure.”
Mr Shah said Sindh currently contributed 935MW of wind energy to the national grid from Jhimpir-Gharo-Keti Bandar wind corridor, while wind power projects of 300MW would be completed by October.
He said the CPEC offered innumerable opportunities for Sindh as its three major cities — Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi — had been declared key cities of the corridor. He said letters of intent had been issued to 35 companies for generation of 2,545MW of electricity. Besides Thar coal mining, two more such projects were in the pipeline, he added.
The chief minister said his government had put special efforts to make the $2bn Karachi Circular Railway project a part of the CPEC.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif stressed that the CPEC was not about provinces; it’s about Pakistan’s needs.
“When they visited China under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif soon after the 2013 elections it was to somehow secure energy projects which Pakistan badly needed. Power outages here were badly hurting our industry and progress so wherever we went to China, we talked about energy,” he said, adding that they were heard by Chinese President Xi Jinping which was the starting point of the CPEC.
“Delegations visited here and we visited them. China wanted to know our appetite and resolve. They don’t have natural resources. Their resource is their hard-earned money. And their president had this vision of the Belt and Road Initiative, which resulted in CPEC,” he shared.
“Even though I am a great believer of China’s development models, I didn’t know then that the agreements signed in April 2015 will be put into action by May 2015. That’s how the Sahiwal coal power project came about along with solar power projects and so on and so forth. We didn’t know that the Chinese would go beyond energy and power but then there was the Gwadar project and CPEC.
“Some say that with CPEC Pakistan will become a colony of China or China will be like the East India Company. Those who say such things are enemies of Pakistan,” said the Punjab CM.
“It is not about domination. It is about development. It is about reaching out to the people and helping them stand on their own feet through wonderful economic progress,” he said, reminding how the CPEC would be a game changer for Pakistan.
“Pakistan has a huge youth bulge that can benefit from the opportunities coming this way thanks to CPEC. If not given any opportunities our youth will be pushed into a bloody revolution. So let’s convert this society into a modern society, which is full of energy. CPEC is an opportunity for Pakistan and the Islamic world to lead from Casablanca to Kuala Lumpur,” he said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Communications Akbar Ayub said that KP’s policy reforms provided a sound foundation for CPEC projects, which have seen an increase in business activity with many business opportunities coming up.
“New and specialised institutes such as the KP Oil and Gas Company, KP IT Board, etc, provide one-window facilitation to foreigners. So there is an investment interest from a variety of companies in Asia for KP, and this is just the beginning,” he added.
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said the CPEC would turn out to be a bright future for Pakistan and Balochistan. He said people didn’t know what was the CPEC about as such they harboured reservations, but such conferences would contribute in dispelling their apprehensions.
Mr Bizenjo made it clear that he was not representing the Balochistan government but came here to express reservations of people about the CPEC. He said the CPEC originated due to Gwadar port and coastal area with second biggest naval port. He said that 43 per cent of Balochistan was full of minerals with second largest deposit of coppers and vast deposits of marble, green onyx, iron ore and gold.
“We are very initial stage of development, but this conference has given answers to many reservations of people,” he added.
Recalling his visit to Iran on the occasion of opening of Chabahar port, Mr Bizenjo said Iran wanted to have a link road between Chabahar and Gwadar and to upgrade Quetta-Zahidan road. He said the project would subsequently contribute to the development of the area.
Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of Pakistan-China Institute, said that out of the 43 CPEC projects in Punjab, 22 were on track, 21 had feasibility studies under way and $18.8bn had already been invested in infrastructure. About 19,581 Chinese experts were working on CPEC projects and 20,000 in non-CPEC projects as 25,000 Pakistanis were learning the Chinese language in Chinese universities, he added.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2018