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No differences with China over support to US, says minister

October 19, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Oct 18: Pakistan is seeking $750 million from bilateral donors and multilateral agencies to start work on the second and third phases of the Gwadar port.

“Pakistan’s support to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan has not abandoned or delayed the development of Gwadar port as many believe,” Communications and Railways Minister Javed Ashraf Kazi told Dawn

The minister denied that China had expressed any reservations against Pakistan for cooperating in the US-led campaign against terrorism.

“The work on Gwadar project has not stalled as China stands committed to extend $250 million for the first phase,” he added.

He explained it always took time to finalize technical details for undertaking bigger projects like the Gwadar port. “But it has noting to do with Pakistan’s support to the USA for combating terrorism”.

Asked to comment on reports that China had expressed discord, the minister said: “Pakistan and China are in full agreement on Gwadar and the development of coastal line.”

So far, he pointed out, no final agreement had been signed to start the project. The technical agreement had already been signed, he said, adding the Chinese experts were finalizing the master plan and the drilling was expected to be started soon.

Originally, he said, the project was to be taken up by the Chinese and Pakistani experts on March 23 next year but now there would be some delay of a month or so owing to some technical reasons. “But let me tell you that we are not facing any political or diplomatic problems in this behalf,” he clarified.

In reply to a question, Mr Ashraf said that China had not objected to the new turn in the Pakistan-US relations. “Beijing does understand that our relations with Americans are not against China and its people.”

Initially, he said, China was building three berths at Gwadar with infrastructure. “We need a third port to export our forthcoming Saindak copper, tons of dates and other items.”

About the railways, the minister said the organization had earned Rs4 billion profit but its Rs17.5 billion bank loans were yet to be cleared. So far, he added, loans worth Rs2.5 billion were repaid.

He said the reduction of markup rate from 17.5 per cent to 11.5pc had been negotiated with banks successfully.

He said that Pakistan had decided to buy 69 locomotives from China at a cost of $84 million. Initially, he said, 15 locomotives would come from China while the rest would be built in Pakistan through the transfer of technology by Beijing.

AID FOR REFUGEES: China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Lu Shulin on Thursday called on the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, Abbas Sarfaraz Khan, and discussed the current situation regarding Afghan refugees and other related issues, APP adds.

The minister said that Pakistan borders are closed and policy on Pakistan-Afghan border is still the same.

However, the government has prepared its contingency plan on goods for humanitarian purposes.

He said that 33 camps would be established in Balochistan and NWFP, close to Afghan border for new arrivals. Their movement would be restricted due to security reasons.

The minister said that UN agencies and international donors must provide assistance to the Afghans within Afghanistan without any interruption.

The ambassador appreciated the humanitarian role of Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for the last 22 years despite its own constraints.

He told the minister that 60 vehicles carrying relief goods from China will arrive in Peshawar on October 27 and added that China was also making arrangements with United Nations agencies for providing assistance within Afghanistan.

He said that Chinese border is also closed for the time being in the current situation.