FO defends CPEC after Alice Wells' criticism

Updated May 23, 2020

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“Pakistan believes that regional economic connectivity will provide a critical stimulus for creating broad-based growth across the region.”  — AFP/File
“Pakistan believes that regional economic connectivity will provide a critical stimulus for creating broad-based growth across the region.” — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Fore­ign Office (FO) on Friday said that China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC) was transparently contributing to national development and issues in the execution of the project were bilaterally addressed by Beijing and Islamabad through existing mechanisms.

The statement was issued after senior US diplomat for South and Central Asia Amb­assador Alice Wells rep­eated her criticism of China’s Belt and Road Ini­tiative (BRI) and its flagship CPEC project. The FO statement, however, did not say that it was a rejoinder to what Amb Wells said at her online media briefing about CPEC.

“The economic development and long-term prosperity of the people is our government’s top priority. The CPEC, a flagship project of BRI, is a transformational project contributing positively and transparently to Pakistan’s national development,” the FO said.

“Pakistan believes that regional economic connectivity will provide a critical stimulus for creating broad-based growth across the region,” it added.

The FO said that CPEC projects had helped Pakis­tan address energy shortages and develop infrastructure, industrial base and create jobs.

At her media briefing, Amb Wells said that the US was concerned about CPEC projects because of “lack of transparency”, and the “unfair rates” of profits guaranteed to the Chinese firms that were executing these projects.

She said the US calls on “China to offer transparent relief from BRI’s predatory loans that countries are suffering from to emerge on stable footing”.

The FO clarified that Pakistan’s total public debt relating to CPEC projects was less than 10 per cent of the total debt burden. More­over, it said, the CPEC loans from China had a maturity period of 20 years and the interest was 2.34pc. There­fore, the claims about the bur­den of Chinese debt on Pak­istan’s economy were “con­trary to facts”, the FO said.

The statement said that Pakistan and China had instituted various mechanisms to address issues that arise in the execution of the projects and they often address those matters bilaterally.

“Pakistan and China are ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partners’. We are engaged in prompting peace, development and stability in the region based on principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, win-win cooperation and shared development,” the statement emphasised.

“Our ties are based on deep mutual trust and understanding,” it further said.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020