ISLAMABAD -  Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong has said that CPEC is open and inclusive to all countries and the ports in the region should complement each other.

He said that all projects under CPEC were ahead of the schedule and would be completed well on time. He expressed these views while speaking at a seminar titled “Priorities and Challenges to CPEC” here.

Replying to a query that whether China supports connectivity of Gwadar with Chabahar, Sun Weidong said, “We have said time and again that CPEC is open and inclusive to all countries and the ports in the region should complement each other.”

In his address, the Chinese ambassador said, “I will focus mainly on three things -- how CPEC came into being, what are the benefits for China and Pakistan and what the future prospects are.” He said that relations between China and Pakistan were of mutual respect, equality and trust and the CPEC project was based on solid political, social and economic bases.

“This is corridor of prosperity, corridor of peace and corridor of win-win for both countries. Both Pakistan and China are partners and winners of the project. He said that CPEC will bring economic and social benefits to the local people. So far, work on 18 early harvest projects has been started and it has created around 13,000 jobs for the local people,” the Chinese ambassador said. More benefits of the CPEC early harvest projects will be visible after its completion. He said that CPEC long-term projects would be finalised this year. He said the role of CPEC was Pakistan’s development and it was becoming obvious.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said all conspiracies against CPEC had failed and no power on the earth could undo the project. He said that Gwadar port was the gateway to Pakistan’s progress and Gwadar airport project would be inaugurated soon.

In reply to a query that who will bear the burden of the security of the CPEC, the minister said that security and development go hand in hand. He said that one percent of the budget for CPEC projects was being spent on security, but it was being treated as development expenditure. However, he said, as soon the security situation in the country improves, the security burden of one percent would go away.

Earlier in his address, Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said there were some misconceptions about Chabahar and some people were portraying it as a threat. “I will say that Chabahar is an opportunity and it cannot survive without Gwadar,” he said. He said that Pakistan needed to take advantage of this opportunity and “I have already requested the Chinese and Pakistanis authorities to connect Gwadar to Chabahar via road. The road is around 80 to 85 kilometres long, but it will connect the whole region.”

He said the government should develop the railway link under CPEC as the corridor could not be completed without the rail link.

PTI leader and MNA Asad Omer said there was no doubt about the relevance and benefits of the CPEC as game-changer for the Pakistani economy. Just before launch of CPEC, Pakistan was isolated. However, the situation has changed now. He said that it is the charm of democracy that the opposition warns the government of potential pitfalls.

He said that in the first two years of the CPEC there was a lack of transparency in the selection of projects and the process of contracts. However, things have improved now and the government is showing openness and the provinces are being accommodated and heard. The second issue is about perceived regional imbalance and the government needs to remove the perception. If you remove Gwadar from CPEC there will be no corridor project, therefore the government is required to equally divide the fruit of the project among all regions.

The other issue, which is surfacing, is the exclusion of Pakistani business and labour from the CPEC-related projects. The government needs to ensure involvement of local businesses and workforce in the CPEC projects so that the enterprise stands on its own feet.