‘CPEC is becoming more and more comprehensive’

25 Jul 2020

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CPEC Authority chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa speaks at the event.—White Star
CPEC Authority chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: Speakers shed light on the salient features of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at a webinar titled ‘CPEC and its impact on the region’.

The event was organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (KCFR) on Thursday.

CPEC Authority chairman retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said the subject was very dear to the heart of every Pakistan. “CPEC is a transformational project, a game changer for Pakistan. The environment in the region is improving by the day, Pakistan is becoming the centre of all the development, and peace and prosperity is becoming visible in our lifetime. We have to take advantage of this.”

He said CPEC was planned in three phases. The first was meant to fill the gaps in our infrastructure in communication and energy.

Giving example of the roads, the eastern route from Peshawar to Karachi, he said: “We’ve just completed the Multan to Sukkur motorway. Now one section of that road is left, which is Sukkur to Hyderabad. Similarly, hard work on the western route is going on. The western route mostly passes through remote areas which can uplift the economy of those areas and it will be great in order to mobilise all logistics from China to Pakistan.”

President Alvi says a desalination plant will soon be installed in Gwadar to cater to its water needs

Mentioning the priority areas in the second phase, he said the focus was on mass industrialisation through special economic zones.

There are a total of nine zones to be built and they’re working on three prioritised zones — Rashakai, Faisalabad and Dhabeji — adding one more in Balochistan.

On agriculture, he said the focus was on three things: enhancing the yield of our agriculture, induction of technology and water conservation and farm management.

Then there is the area of science and technology for which they’re working with the ministry of science and technology.

Mr Bajwa said: “We are taking CPEC into the tourism sector. It is one area we have a lot [of] potential but suffering because of a lack of system and infrastructure.”

China praises Pakistan’s cooperation

Ambassador of People’s Republic of China to Pakistan Yao Jing said the Chinese government and its people appreciated the solidarity, support and assistance from the Pakistani government and its people when China was suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.

Just in the morning, he had discussed with the president of Pakistan the next stage of collaboration in fighting the pandemic. In the wake of the virus, several changes have come about, first of which is its effect on global economy.

“China is working hard to revive its economy. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and his government are also doing a lot to revive the economy. With CPEC they’re trying to adapt [to the change]. Several projects, especially in the area of construction, have started. The prime minister of Pakistan made it clear that the construction sector is the key to the revival of the economy.”

Mr Yao said they’re going to shift more resources to meet challenges of the prevention and control of the coronavirus cases, doing more for the medical sector.

Then there is cooperation between the two countries in the industrial sector, in science and technology, tourism and water resources management.

“We are in close collaboration with various departments and ministries of the Pakistani government,” he said, adding that the fundamental of the economy was based on manufacturing and production, so they’re going to help increase manufacturing and production capacities of Pakistani exporters.

The ambassador said internationally, a lot of developments happened during the pandemic, but the basic concept of CPEC was cooperation. “It’s a platform first between China and Pakistan. There are regional opportunities to offer for the regional countries as well. The task for China and Pakistan is that we do our best in regional and international cooperation platforms. CPEC is becoming more and more comprehensive, moving from economic to social sectors, from government cooperation to people-to-people cooperation.”

As far as the Chinese government is concerned, we are devoted to this project, he assured the hosts.

‘$62bn CPEC project keeps on expanding’

President Arif Alvi in his plenary address said in the [history of] the world, peace was always related to the fact that there were trade routes. China and Pakistan had a great Silk Road which was re-established. As long as there’s movement of goods, there’s prosperity and trade between regions. One country more prosperous is able to import goods to less prosperous regions. Therefore, the BRI initiative of China is very important.

He said he’s glad that CPEC had made a lot of progress. It’s a $62 billion project which keeps on expanding as the need for communication through rail, fibre, energy, etc, and such routes become more popularised. We will have to keep increasing that infrastructure, he insisted.

As peace returns to Afghanistan, the president pointed out, it’s very important that trade takes place from Gwadar.

With peace progressing in Afghanistan, the contribution of China and Pakistan to rebuilding Afghanistan and CPEC will play an important part. “In the CPEC corridor 19 projects have been completed, about 28 are in the phase of implementation and 41 in the pipeline. And this will keep getting bigger and bigger.”

President Alvi said Gwadar is the crown jewel of the CPEC corridor because it links us to the Chinese north-western region as well as to Central Asia. As Gwadar expands and industries are set up, we need desalination plants. So “a desalination plant is also in the process”.

He then went on to highlight the cooperation between China and Pakistan in other areas, particularly those from where Pakistan has learnt from China.

KCFR chairman Ikram Sehgal thanked the guests for their participation in the webinar, which was moderated by Aleena Agha.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2020