Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar on Thursday said that Chinese investment in Pakistan was growing and along with it, the need for security measures for the investors.
The planning minister was addressing a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the 10th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The JCC was due to meet in July but the meeting was postponed after the Dasu incident in which a number of Chinese nationals were killed.
Umar said that during the JCC meeting, both the Chinese and Pakistani sides, had "specially mentioned and emphasised" on the issue of security. "Need and importance of security is increasing as Chinese investment is rising in Pakistan," he said, adding that the CPEC's scope was widening and industrial investments were coming in.
The federal minister said that both sides expressed their grief over the Dasu incident and sympathy with the victims' families and also affirmed the intent to capture the culprits responsible as soon as possible and get them punished in court.
Umar said a very "strong" plan of action had been devised last month to further enhance security measures, explaining that a special cell was set up in the interior ministry for this purpose. "This cell is not exclusively China-specific but [for the security of all] foreigners working in Pakistan," he added.
The planning minister said CPEC was a target of some forces in the world "particularly our eastern neighbour whom it stings and there is no doubt about this".
He added that this targeting was not limited to physical attacks but "this is the age of fifth-generation hybrid warfare [including] fake news on social media and international outlets".
Despite that, Umar said, Pakistan and China's top political leadership, all the way down to the nation, were "committed" to the friendship between the two countries.
He had said earlier on Twitter that Thursday's JCC meeting would "lay the foundation for further acceleration and broadening of CPEC".
The planning minister had expressed the same sentiments about potential threats to CPEC in his JCC address earlier in the day, saying that many countries in the world were "unhappy and nervous" with its successful development.
Responding to a question on supposed Chinese insistence of providing security itself for China's workers, the planning minister said the issue had not been raised at all. "They realise and have a concern about security issues [...] but you received a message few days back that workers had remobilised and work had restarted," he said.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor added at this point that the Pakistan Army had given a comprehensive security briefing, which had been relayed to the Chinese embassy.
A decision was also made to extend security arrangements for CPEC projects to any and all incoming Chinese investment, Umar said, while explaining that the Dasu project was not covered by CPEC's security blanket.
Regarding the scale of incoming Chinese investment in Pakistan, Umar said more than half of the country's foreign direct investment was from China.
"Apart from that [if you see] our relationship, China stands with us at any world forum no matter how much pressure there is. When vaccines came and we tried to secure them, except for China we got them from nowhere so there is a special relationship," the planning minister said, adding that it was very "difficult" to find a friend like China.
On a question on whether foreign policy needed to be revisited due to the current security situation, he said past decisions had been made in the country's history for which "we paid a very big price by getting involved in others' war — whether hot or cold, I'm not just talking about the war on terror".
"That is why Pakistan has a very clear foreign policy. We won't step back one inch from our friendship and relationship with China and we are not apologetic about it. We are very proud of this relationship.
"But neither China demands of us to use this relationship against anyone, nor are we ready to do so," Umar said.
The planning minister also provided updates on the agreements and issues discussed in the JCC as well as the progress of other infrastructure projects.
Regarding the overall path of CPEC, he said it had passed the first stage of a few big projects and was now spreading to the overall economy where investment decisions would be made by individual companies.
This phase two would broaden the scope of cooperation and focus on industrial, scientific, technological and agricultural cooperation, according to a press release issued by the planning ministry.
It added that the following developments took place during the JCC meeting:
- Memorandum of understanding (MoU) for establishment of a joint working group on information technology industry was signed
- Letter of exchange of provision of Balochistan solar power lighting equipment and provision of medical equipment and material was signed
- MoU on Karachi Coastal Comprehensive Development Zone
- Agreement of cooperation framework between Ningbo port and Gwadar port as well as lease deed of Gwadar Expo Centre