With CPEC entering 2nd phase, some nations making efforts to bypass Pakistan in this process of connectivity: PM
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative — was entering its second phase, but there were efforts by some countries to “bypass Pakistan in this process of connectivity”.
“[But] I have no doubt that Pakistan and China will together fill in the gap and this corridor … will extend in many ways to include the entire region and other parts of the world,” he said while addressing a ceremony held to mark 10 years of CPEC.
Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, who arrived in Pakistan yesterday for a three-day visit, attended the ceremony as the chief guest.
During his address, Shehbaz thanked the Chinese vice premier for visiting Pakistan and joining the celebrations.
He said Lifeng was the “lynchpin” in extending cooperation and support for CPEC in its early days and “very helpful” in ensuring the speedy operations of the project.
Referring to Sunday’s “devastating” terror attack in Bajaur, he said terrorism had also been a subject of joint cooperation between Pakistan and China.
The prime minister thanked China for supporting Pakistan at “this critical juncture” by rolling over loans. “Pakistan wants to move away from loans, aid and handouts and wants to stand on its own feet,” he added.
Speaking before him, Chinese Vice Premier Lifeng termed CPEC an “important pioneering project” of the Belt and Road Initiative, adding that China and Pakistan had achieved many “early harvests” in the project which led to new impetus to the latter’s socio-economic development and laid the foundation for regional integration and connectivity.
“It is a vivid testament to our all-weather friendship and provides an important “ opportunity for building a close Pakistan-China community.
He said China would work with Pakistan to aim for high standards, sustainable and livelihood-enhancing outputs, continue to improve overall planning and expand and deepen their bilateral relationship to build CPEC into a high-quality project.
“No matter how the regional landscape may change, China will always stand firmly with Pakistan and will continue to work hand in hand and forge ahead with sincerity to carry forward our iron friendship.”
The Chinese vice premier gave updates on the status of various CPEC projects, adding that the project had become an important driver for regional economic growth and had set an example of “mutual trust and common development”.
“Over the decades, CPEC has promoted development, delivered shared benefits and has become a corridor of wellbeing and prosperity,” he said, adding, “The road ahead for Pakistan will be wider and prospects for its development will be brighter.”
Hilal-i-Pakistan conferred on Lifeng
Earlier today, President Arif Alvi conferred Pakistan’s second-highest civil award, Hilal-i-Pakistan (Crescent of Pakistan), on Lifeng during an investiture ceremony held at Aiwan-e-Sadar in Islamabad.
The award was given to the Chinese dignitary to honour his role in the promotion of bilateral ties between Pakistan and China.
The ceremony was attended by PM Shehbaz and other civil and military leaders.
Lifeng also met Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, with the military’s media affairs wing saying matters of mutual interest and defence cooperation were discussed between the two.
“Both reiterated the desire to further enhance and strengthen bilateral relations in all fields,” the Inter-Services Public Relations said.
Pakistan, China sign six agreements
Earlier today, China and Pakistan signed six agreements for the promotion of bilateral cooperation. The event was attended by PM Shehbaz, the Chinese vice premier, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and other foreign dignitaries.
Addressing the occasion, PM Shehbaz said, “I thank the Chinese president for sending his senior official to Pakistan, expressing the solidarity of people-to-people friendship between the two countries. This gesture demonstrates the strength of our friendship.”
“I have no doubt that we are entering into the second phase of CPEC. Today, we have signed some important documents which will enhance our economic cooperation, and we will undertake the second phase under a new mode,” he told the gathering.
The PM highlighted that the agreements would lead to investments in agriculture and IT, enabling Pakistan, with China’s support, to export items according to the requirements and standards of the Chinese government.
He emphasised, “The CPEC was signed by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and it was implemented promptly.”
“Today, we can claim that under the CPEC, more than $25bn investment took place in power, energy, public transport, and other sectors.”
He also expressed gratitude to the Chinese vice premier for visiting Pakistan as the two countries celebrate ten years of the CPEC.
After the ceremony, delegation-level talks were held by PM Shehbaz and He Lifeng which encompassed multiple areas of bilateral cooperation.
PM welcomes Chinese vice premier
On Monday morning, the Chinese vice premier was accorded a welcome after he arrived at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad to meet PM Shehbaz Sharif.
The premier received the foreign dignitary at the main entrance of the PM House.
Upon He Lifeng’s arrival, the prime minister introduced his delegation comprising federal cabinet members Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Ishaq Dar, Rana Sanaullah, Syed Naveed Qamar, Ahsan Iqbal, Saad Rafiq, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Hina Rabbani Khar and Tariq Fatemi to the Chinese vice premier.
Taking to Twitter, the PM “warmly welcomed” the Chinese vice premier and the members of his delegation.
“They are visiting Pakistan to join us in celebrating the 10th anniversary of CPEC and witnessing first-hand the transformations brought about by this game-changing initiative,” PM Shehbaz said.
Earlier, the FO had also acknowledged Lifeng’s “prominent role” in China’s international economic relations and implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, of which CPEC is a flagship project.
As the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission from 2017 to 2023, he was “instrumental in the planning and execution of multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan”, the FO had said.
It had added that his visit was a part of regular high-level exchanges and dialogue between Pakistan and China and reflected the importance attached by both countries to further deepen their “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership, enhance economic and financial cooperation, advance high-quality development of CPEC and explore new avenues for strengthening trade and investment ties”.
Security tightened in Islamabad
According to the security details, around 2,716 personnel of police, Dolphin Force, Frontier Constabulary and Pakistan Army will be deployed to ensure foolproof security along the route and venues where the Chinese vice premier will stay and attend the ceremony.
Along with the Islamabad police, the Rawalpindi police will also perform security duties along the 39.5km route from Islamabad International Airport to the Punjab House.
As per the details, 10 superintendents, 18 security superintendents and 104 Dolphin Force personnel will be part of the security duties. The bomb disposal squad of the police’s special branch will sweep all bridges, culverts, underpasses, nullahs, metro bus stops, and other places along the route before the movement of dignitaries.
No vehicle will be parked along the route during the movements and security officials will report any suspected person or vehicles to senior officers.
The security personnel posted along the route will carry reflecting jackets, raincoats, bulletproof helmets and jackets, whistles and torches. Extra security will be ensured at sensitive points identified in the security plan. They will not be allowed to use mobile phones and have to display their official cards at all times.
Policemen will also be deployed on rooftops of high-rise buildings. They will be equipped with binoculars, wireless sets, and G-3 rifles.
A dedicated command and control room has been established by the Islamabad Safe City Authority to supervise security arrangements during the movement and stay of the delegation.
What is CPEC?
CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. The vast initiative is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects and special economic zones.
The key agreement for the projects to be listed under CPEC was signed in 2013, and term sheets for them were signed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2015.
In November of 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.
Islamabad has so far received $25.4 billion in direct Chinese investment in various transport, energy, and infrastructure schemes under the flagship connectivity and investment corridor project, under the flagship connectivity and investment corridor project, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Additional reporting by Iftikhar Shirazi