ISLAMABAD             -        President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was one of six main projects coming under the mega Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project as it would connect countries and continents; thereby, creating a parallel economic world focusing on economic cooperation and development.

He made these remarks while addressing a question and answer session organized by Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) on “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its impact on Societal Emancipation of Pakistan and Afghanistan”. The session was moderated by Maj. General (R) Raza Muhammad, member IICR Advisory Board, said a press release issued here on Monday.

Masood Khan said that CPEC – a $62 billion spanning around 15 years project – comprises of ports, power generation plants and infrastructure development, which has now been made holistic and substantive with the addition of socio-economic development projects like skill development, employment and people to people contacts. “.The focus was not merely on Gawadar Port but Gawadar and every other city of Pakistan, skill development, improving our overall human resource capital and indexes. The CPEC has transformed into an organic relationship between two brotherly nations”, he said.

The president said that there was an overwhelming national consensus on CPEC. “All political leaders, political parties and stakeholders have been brought on board. The people of Balochistan are very optimistic for CPEC”, he said, adding that India had been trying to jeopardize peace in Pakistan by carrying out proxy wars not only in Balochistan but other areas of the country. “We have to brush aside these risks and stay the course”, he said.

The AJK president said that CPEC must not be mistaken as a substitute for the growing Pakistani economy rather it shall act as a catalyst for economic transformation, modernize its industry, develop its maritime economy, build its human capital, and diversify its trading partners and sources of investment.

Responding to a question, the president said that in 2015 when CPEC was finalized, the US State Department gave a very positive statement over the initiative saying it would help towards development. But later during the Trump administration, the US expressed reservations. India, he said objected because it could not bear to see Pakistan economically progress. India has contested that CPEC passes through a disputed territory (GB and AJK) – which in turn accentuates Pakistan’s stance that this area was a disputed territory while India claims it as their “integral” part, he said. ”India’s claims lack clarity and are instead counter-intuitive”, said Masood Khan.

He said that China had established its writ in the Galwan Valley during the recent Ladakh standoff with India. India, he said was facing national humiliation and their reaction was more of self-emulation rather than punitive.

This standoff, he said, would have an impact on the situation in IOJK as India brought Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir under union rule. He said that India further went on to issue fake maps bringing GB, AJK, Ladakh and Aksai Chin within India’s “so-called” territorial boundaries. China has in the recent past facilitated an informal debate on Jammu and Kashmir in the UN Security Council and now, not only does Pakistan and China have an economic alliance but also a military alliance and united against India’s expansionism.

To another query, the AJK president said that Afghanistan had always been very keen to join the CPEC. He added that the Afghan’s leadership and Pakistan’s government had a greater understanding and keenness in the project and despite complicating factors like security issues in Afghanistan, US presence along with the opposition of India, the ground was being prepared for including and incorporating Afghanistan in CPEC. Pakistan had recently played a positive role in the Afghan peace talks and its stock had increased in Washington too and was seen as a peacemaker, facilitator and mediator, he said while hoping the diplomatic process continued and there was peace and security not only in Afghanistan but the whole region.