Prime Minister Imran Khan has dismissed Western countries' suspicion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Gwadar port, adding that the projects were a great opportunity for regional development.
He expressed the views during an interview with Dr Eric Li, the director of the advisory committee of the China Institute at Fudan University. The interview, which was filmed during the premier's recent trip to Beijing, was released on Thursday with Urdu subtitles.
"I do not understand why there is suspicion about CPEC and the Gwadar port. It makes no sense because, as far as Pakistan is concerned, my number one priority is the country's 220 million people," PM Imran said.
He said that almost 25-30 per cent of the country was below the poverty line, adding that Pakistan had suffered greatly due to past corrupt governments and the 'war on terror'.
"Pakistan should never have participated in the war. While the US lost 4,000 people in the 20 years since 9/11, Pakistan lost 80,000 people and [suffered] a loss of over $100 billion to the economy."
He reiterated that the government's top priority was to look after the people, adding that the emphasis was on geo-economics.
"We want to build our economy and lift our people out of poverty," he said, adding that Pakistan looked towards China as a role model in this regard. "We see CPEC and Gwadar as a great opportunity for geo-economics."
He noted that the initiative was not exclusive to China and Pakistan and said that other countries were also welcome to invest in CPEC projects.
Commenting on Afghanistan, PM Imran said that the Unites States did not study the history of the war-torn country. "There is a saying that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it again. So anyone who understood the history of Afghanistan would never have done what the Americans did."
He went on to say that he had pointed out from the start that the US would not succeed militarily in Afghanistan. "First of all, they were never clear on what they were trying to achieve in Afghanistan. Was it nation-building? Was it democracy? Was it liberating the Afghan women? They had no clear aims."
The prime minister said that the US mission was over once Osama Bin Laden was killed as "theoretically they only came to fight Al Qaeda", adding that the terrorist group was "decimated" within the first two years of the US invasion.
He said that when a country has no clear aims when invading another, it would always result in failure.
"Secondly, they don't understand the Afghan character. The people of Afghanistan do not accept foreigners in their country as rulers. They do not accept control from the outside."
He reiterated that there could not be a military solution in Afghanistan as he was aware of the country's history. "My ancestors came to India from Afghanistan."
PM Imran said that the US generals believed in their firepower and thought they were invincible. "But if a people do not want to be ruled, you cannot rule them."
He said that the US mission in Afghanistan was "based on a false premise", had "no clear goals" and was never going to succeed.
The premier also commented on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, stating that the US was unable to distinguish between the Taliban government and Afghanistan's 40 million people.
He said that a humanitarian crisis was unfolding as the US was sanctioning the Taliban government in an attempt to "punish" them.
“If Afghanistan descends into chaos because of the sanctions [...] this will be the biggest man-made human disaster,” he said.
He said the world needed to convince the Americans that this was not the way to go about dealing with Afghanistan as chaos would weaken the Taliban government's ability to take on international terrorists such as ISIS.
Relations with India
When asked about Pakistan's relations with India, PM Imran said that he knew the neighbouring country "better than most Pakistanis" due to his cricketing career. "I used to play there a lot and I received a lot of love and respect from India."
When my government came into power, my first priority was to normalise ties with India, he said, adding that occupied Kashmir was the only issue between the two countries.
He said that the current Indian government thought that India belonged only to the Hindus, and in doing so, it was marginalising around 700 million human beings who were now considered "second-class citizens".
He called it a "great tragedy" and dubbed it the reason why India was facing problems from within and with its neighbours.
"We just hope that better sense prevails because as things are going, I think India will damage itself much more than anyone else."
Treatment of Uighurs
At the tail-end of his interview, the prime minister was asked about allegations of genocide against Uighurs in China's Xinjiang province and his perspective.
"We asked our ambassador in China, Moinul Haque, to go and have a look in Xinjiang and find out what is actually going on. The report he gave us was completely different to what is coming out on Western media."
He quoted the envoy as saying that the emphasis on development in Xinjiang was "unprecedented".
"He did mention that there were terrorist attacks by East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) because of which there is a security issue," PM Imran said.
"But the sort of things we were told don't exist in Xinjiang," he said.