Speaking at an event at the Pak-China Friendship centre on Sunday, the Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong said that the passage going through the western part of Pakistan to Gwadar was definitely a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - ostensibly putting to bed the controversy over the route the project is going to take.

Such an explicit declaration goes a long way in assuaging the concerns of the opposition parties; however it still must be classified as “ostensibly” as statements along these lines have been made before – by both the government and Chinese authorities.

In February 2015, the Awami National Party (ANP) called an All Parties Conference to share its apprehensions regarding the CPEC route with other political parties; namely that the PML-N government seemed adamant in excluding Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan from the bounty of the “game changing” project. In response the Prime Minister pledged that the route would be a “priority and will be finished first”.

In the face such a thumping endorsement – by the Prime Minister no less – controversy has still persisted. PML-N MNAs and ministers – such as Senator Taj Haider, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on the CPEC – have continued to make contradictory statements and perhaps most tellingly, while the Karakoram Highway and Punjab sections of the project are well underway, those on the western route are still in the “feasibility phase”. There is a real concern that while the western route might technically be “part of the project”, its completion will be delayed till the last stages of the project dates in the distant 2030.

These provisos aside, the Chinese ambassador’s statement is still a high-ranking and unambiguous statement of intent from the other side of the Himalayas, and must be respected as such. More important are the comments that follow. The ambassador made clear that the project was envisioned as part of the One Road, One Belt policy, which calls for direct and multiple routes to Gawadar. These sections of the project might be not provide short-term returns but it is integral to the overall plan.

Furthermore, the economic uplift that the project is going to bring to the provinces of Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the key part of the project’s pitch, and the Chinese Ambassador has affirmed that.

The government may still dither, but now it has very little moral authority to stand on. The opposition too now have an unassailable stance to put pressure on the government, and should do that to great effect.