ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday welcomed the United States International Development Finance Corporation’s (IDFC) plans to invest in Pakistan, saying this would benefit the region.

Speaking at the FO’s weekly press briefing, spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said: “The meeting between Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Mr Abdul Razak Dawood and the chief executive officer of U.S. International Development Finance Corporation Mr Adam Boehler … would further strengthen efforts in concretising important development projects benefitting both Pakistan and Afghanistan and the region as a whole.”

Mr Boehler visited Pakistan with US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday.

In a separate statement, the US Embassy said that during his meetings in Islamabad, Mr Boehler discussed investment opportunities to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and contribute to peace and stability in the region.

The US had launched the IDFC in 2018 to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The idea was to counter what was seen in Washington as China’s aggressive overseas development policies by co-investing with US and non-US private sector companies in infrastructure projects in countries that were part of China’s BRI programme.

Washington has also been critical of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). US officials allege that CPEC lacks transparency and is adding to Pakistan’s debt burden. Islamabad rejects these allegations.

When asked if Pakistan too sees the IDFC as a rival to the BRI and CPEC, Ms Farooqui referred to the statement issued by the Ministry of Commerce, which said that Mr Dawood desired stronger connectivity with Central Asian republics through road networks and power infrastructure.

Mr Dawood told Mr Boehler that the Pakistani government assures a level playing field for investors from all over the world, irrespective of their country of origin.

Kashmir

While discussing the Sopore incident, in which a civilian was killed by Indian forces and an image of his grandson sitting by the body went viral on mainstream and social media, Ms Farooqui said: “The heart wrenching picture of the three year old boy in Sopore will forever remain seared in the imagination of all those who believe in humanity, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

She added: “India cannot wash away the truth by fake news and turning its propaganda machinery faster.”

Ms Farooqui said ceasefire violations by Indian security forces continue unabated along the Line of Control (LoC).

“As a result of recent violations and mortar and artillery shelling on the LoC in Kayani and Jura sectors of the LoC, on 29th and 30th June 2020, 16-year-old Mohammad Tauheed, resident of Talwari village, embraced shahadat.”

She said Indian troops have committed 1,546 ceasefire violations in the first six months of this year, resulting in the martyrdom of 14 and serious injuries to 114 innocent civilians.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020