ISLAMABAD - Expressing a resolve to take the Sino-Pak ‘all-weather strategic cooperative partnership’ to new heights, Pakistan and China have expressed their convergence of opinion that socio-economic uplift will be an important area under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor cooperation between the two countries.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while defending the Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative on Saturday said CPEC has helped increase Pakistan’s economic growth by 1-2 percent and has contributed 70,000 jobs. He outrightly rejected criticism the project has saddled Pakistan with expensive debt.
“CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy,” Wang said. He said 47 percent of Pakistan’s debt comes from the IMF and the Asian Development Bank.
Wang said 22 operational CPEC projects, of which nine have been completed, have triggered investment worth $19 billion so far. He also rejected concerns about transparency of CPEC by saying those worries were “false” as all the projects had undergone necessary approvals.
Addressing a joint press conference here after their one-on-one and later delegation-level talks, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that being ‘Iron Brothers’, both countries were supporting each other on various international forums and shared the common principles on different international and regional issues. He said enhancing the all-weather strategic partnership with China was cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Qureshi said CPEC remains top priority of the new government, adding that the two governments would focus on projects with socio-economic development.
During bilateral talks, the two sides identified 10 areas of cooperation to further the objectives of close relationship and give impetus to about 20 ongoing projects under umbrella of CPEC which is expected to create 70,000 jobs, he added.
Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi reiterated his government’s commitment to work closely with the new government of Pakistan to achieve shared goals of prosperity and development of the people of Pakistan. He expressed the hope that the people of Pakistan would overcome their issues under the new elected leadership.
Terming Pakistan good friend and partner, the minister said China and Pakistan were tied closely with strategic partnership based upon mutual support and understanding. Referring to proverbial term ‘Iron Brothers’, Wang Yi said their friendship always stood tests of time and international changes, as it was strong and unbreakable, deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of the two countries.
Qureshi said Pakistan was willing to continue collaborating with China on the CPEC, the fast-moving flagship project of One Belt, One Road initiative. It showed the proof of serious and active engagement of all the stakeholders in private and public sectors in both the counties, he said.
Qureshi further said they also discussed threadbare the impressing issues and the need to keep close communication on global issues.
Both sides have always supported each other on different international issues, he said. He expressed gratitude to Chinese leadership on part of the government of Pakistan and its people for the continued support.
The minister also assured his Chinese counterpart that earlier implementation of CPEC projects would be made by exploring new avenues.
Qureshi also assured security of Chinese people working on different CPEC projects and said secure environment would be provided to them by the security forces. The CPEC is an evolving project and its foundations are being laid through better infrastructure, power and energy projects, he said.
To a query, he said with the passage of time, CPEC would take its shape in line with expectations of the people of Pakistan, resulting in the social economic uplift of the people of Pakistan. He said they also agreed on importance of relocation of industry, vocational training for making our people more productive, strengthening of agricultural base and the opportunities provided to farmers.
The export of Pakistani agricultural produce to China and implementation on special economic zones were also discussed, he said, adding possibilities of Pakistani exports to China with the provision of subsidies could remove imbalance of trade. He said he had also discussed priorities of the PTI-led government including poverty alleviation, rooting out corruption and social development.
The minister said Pakistan had made huge strides in combating terrorism and it also condemned terrorist activities by any individual or groups. Chinese government supported Pakistan’s contributions in this regard, he said.
China recognised the immense contributions and sacrifices and fully supported Pakistan in its efforts and urged the international community to also acknowledge its contributions in the war on terror which is a global issue, Qureshi said.
He said they were thankful to the Chinese government and its leadership for sending congratulatory messages and phone calls to the newly-elected leadership of Pakistan.
He further said China had invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit China on an official visit during November as a guest of honour at an international import expo.
The minister said he also conveyed Pakistan’s consistent support to China and expressed gratitude for China’s active support to Pakistan for becoming a member of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Qureshi said he also shared with his Chinese counterpart the outcome of his discussion with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The minister underlined the importance of defence cooperation with China, especially keeping in view Pakistan’s urgent needs in the evolving regional scenario and the cooperation to counter terrorism and collectively to take out terrorists’ threats in the region.
He said Chinese foreign minister’s visit was the first high-level contact from the Chinese leadership after formation of the new government in Pakistan. The minister also lauded contributions of Wang Yi for promotion of friendship and bilateral ties between the two countries.
About his visit to Islamabad, Wang Yi said China would continue support to Pakistan and accord the highest priority to its relations with Pakistan. He said during delegation-level talks, they had discussed 10 points and agreed to further cement existing excellent cooperation. He said issues of close strategic partnership, implementation of CPEC projects, facilitating exports from Pakistan, improving local factories, poverty alleviation and job creation were deliberated thoroughly and unanimity of views was expressed.
He said China was keen to further increase this cooperation in the agricultural, education and healthcare sectors to benefit Pakistani people, besides stressing upon enhanced cooperation and interaction in the defence and security sectors.
Wang Yi also acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and extended full support to all its efforts to eliminate terrorism. He also underlined the need to further increase the people-to-people contacts and exchanges of delegations of the young people. He announced they would take steps to further facilitate Pakistani citizens visiting China.
On international cooperation, he stressed upon the significance of reconciliation and peace process in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan always stood with China in difficult times and the Chinese leadership wanted to reciprocate the same with fast implementation of the CPEC.
He said that China had been financially assisting the CPEC projects with concessional loans. The project is set to create about 70,000 jobs and its fruits will not be confined to a specific group or area, but will benefit the whole country and result in the overall development of the people of Pakistan, he said.
The Chinese minister also highlighted the importance of availability of energy and power for running the industry in Pakistan and said efforts were being made to overcome the issue through early harvesting projects in this regard.
MEETING WITH COAS
The Chinese delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi also called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed with him matters related to regional security and bilateral cooperation.
Wang Yi said Pakistan-China relationship was based on convergence of views and mutual respect, said a press release issued here by ISPR.
Appreciating professionalism of Pakistan Army, Wang Yi said the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and stability. He appreciated security provided to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that China believed in inclusive prosperity.
The COAS thanked Chinese FM for his visit and continued Chinese support to Pakistan. Pakistan has suffered from global contestation but we are poised to claim our rightful place in comity of nations through commitment to peace and stability, he added.
CPEC to unleash huge economic benefits: China