PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan has concluded a four-day visit to China at a time when ties with Beijing are poised at a delicate juncture. Mr Khan had important meetings with the Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping, and according to an official press release, he discussed a wide range of issues with him.
Although the main reason for the prime minister’s visit was to witness the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, he utilised the opportunity to interact with prominent world leaders in attendance and to take stock of the various strands of the Islamabad-Beijing relationship. One key component of bilateral ties is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Reports suggest that during the last few years, CPEC has lost some of its original pace and this has led to anxiety that the projects may not have received the kind of focused attention that had been envisioned.
In the days running up to Mr Khan’s China visit, various cabinet ministers had stated that matters related to CPEC would constitute a high priority during the visit. It has been reported that the prime minister and his entourage reviewed the progress with Chinese officials and some headway was made to keep it on track.
If that is the case then it is a positive sign considering that CPEC holds a central place in this country’s efforts towards economic revitalisation including job creation and infrastructure development. At one point, CPEC was allowed to become a source of public controversy, with some government politicians issuing rather irresponsible statements. The Pakistani leadership needs to ensure that the multibillion-dollar venture does not fall victim to petty politics and that special care is taken to avoid spreading misperceptions.
In pursuing the project, each side has its own national interest to think of and if any reservations or disputes arise, it is best for the two countries to settle them in private. It is also important to not let red tape and bureaucratic inertia become an obstacle in meeting deadlines and finishing CPEC projects on time. That said, the standards of transparency have kept to be kept in mind at all times. There have been genuine concerns about CPEC and the state can only allay these by engaging with the stakeholders and giving them an accurate picture of the actual costs, the work done on each project, the audits carried out and similar information. Only then can we reap the dividends.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2022