ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Thursday agreed to start a $10 billion Mainline-1 (ML-1) railway project from Karachi to Peshawar and the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and reinvigorate the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by including water resources management, climate change and business-to-business investments in energy and industrial sectors in the new phase of cooperation.

Speaking at a news conference after the 11th meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on CPEC, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said the major announcements on bilateral cooperation would be made during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Beijing on Nov 1.

The minister said the two sides had achieved consensus during the JCC, held virtually, on major things including the signing of agreements on ML-1 and KCR through institutional formalities but have decided not to make formal announcements on decisions taken because of the upcoming visit “otherwise we would have stolen the thunder of the PM visit”.

Announcement to be made during PM’s visit next month

The two sides, he said also agreed to take forward the three major energy sector projects including 1,320MW Thar Coal project on Block-1 and the financial close of two hydropower projects — Kohala and Azad Pattan that had been delayed inordinately over the past four years. Also, Pakistan had requested the Chinese to provide financing support to the upcoming 10,000MW solar power projects in the country.

He said the JCC had been organised keeping in view the upcoming visit of Mr Sharif to China in which all important MoUs and agreements will be signed formally.

The JCC was co-chaired by China’s Vice Chairman Nati­onal Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) Lin Nianxiu.

Mr Ahsan said that there were three basic targets of the JCC meeting which remained ‘highly successful and both sides agreed to take forward the multi-billion dollar flagship projects swiftly. These included the revival of CPEC, which has been revived since the government came into power in April this year.

Another objective was the inclusion of new projects which will increase the CPEC’s portfolio and the third was to shift gear from government-to-government cooperation to Business to Business cooperation as originally planned in the long-term plan.

The minister said it was agreed to include a new area of “Water Resource Management and Climate Change” which will have great importance, especially after the recent flood which badly affected Pakistan.

The meeting, he said, agreed to push forward the initiative of the new government to include 10,000MW of solar energy in the system. The GOP requested China to create a financing window or a credit line for Chinese companies participating in this project, he added.

Both Beijing and Islamabad also have agreed to explore new avenues in the mining sector and it was decided to set up a new working group to explore the sector, he said. Similarly, Pakistan sought Chinese technical support for increasing the country’s exports and the Chinese repose was positive, he said.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2022

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