ISLAMABAD - Acting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Lijian on Monday announced that China will set up a steel factory in Gwadar.

“The steel factory will be three times bigger than the free economic zone being set up in the Gwadar city, and an agreement in this regard between China and Pakistan will be signed soon,” Zhao Lijian said while speaking at a conference on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) organized by an Islamabad based think-tank, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI).

The conference was informed that the sixth meeting of Pak-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), the principal decision-making and implementation forum of CPEC, was scheduled to be held in China on Dec 28-29. The focus of the meeting would be on industrial investment cooperation and new transportation projects including Keti Bunder Port, Airport in Thar (Islamkot) and the next phase of the Karakoram Highway. 

The conference, which was attended by representatives of academia, think tanks, diplomatic corps and media, aimed at analyzing the potential benefits of the mega infrastructure-cum-communications project for both Pakistan and China.

Zhao Lijian the steel factory would help further expedite economic developments being carried out under CPEC framework.

He said industrial cooperation was the forth pillar of the CPEC initiative and both the countries would discuss it at the next meeting of the JCC.

Zhao Lijian expressed satisfaction at the pace of progress of CPEC projects. He said the upcoming JCC would focus on industrial investment cooperation under which an industrial zone would be established in every province. While talking about Gwadar airport up-gradation, he said that the new international airport would have landing facility for all the modern aircraft including A-380 airbus after completion, adding, prior to the up-gradation only C-130 or propeller-planes could land at the old airport.

The acting Chinese ambassador said that a 150-bed hospital was being built for the treatment of local people while a vocational institute had been set up for imparting training of different skills especially for the fishermen.

Regarding energy projects, he said that the 50MW wind power plants and the 100-MW solar power plant set up in Balochistan would boost the power production and hoped there would be no load-shedding in Pakistan after completion of all energy projects. Regarding transport infrastructure projects, he said, the Multan-Sukkur section of Peshawar-Karachi motorway would be completed at a cost of US$ 2.8 billion.

He said, KKH Phase-II would be completed at a cost of US$ 1.3 billion, adding, its Phase-I had already been completed while Phase-III would soon be planned. About railways up gradation, he said, after completion of dual tracks, speed of trains could be enhanced up to 160 km per hours.

He rejected the criticism about the coal projects being undertaken under the CPEC and said international environmental standards were being complied.

The Chinese diplomat hoped that load-shedding in Pakistan would end once the energy projects reach completion. Energy, he recalled, was recognized as a priority under the CPEC.

Chairman Parliamentary Committee on CPEC Senator Mushahid Hussain said that the government has accepted the proposals of the committee for the inclusion of FATA and Keti Bunder in the CPEC. The parliamentary committee had been advocating that lesser developed areas should benefit more from this unprecedented development opportunity, said Hussain

He said the CPEC initiative would be beneficial not only for Pakistan and China but also for the South Asia and the regions beyond.  He said that the land route of CPEC would connect 65 countries through Gwadar port. He said, China's cooperation in energy sector, transport infrastructure development including railways up gradation, Gwadar port, development of Thar coal, Karachi-Peshawar motorway, employment to 10,000 Pakistanis and early harvest projects under the CPEC had given a new impetus to economic growth.

He said that importance of Shanghai Cooperation Organization had increased manifold for regional cooperation and after India's stubborn attitude regarding South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Senator Hussain said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah would be attending the JCC meeting, where he would plead for the new projects in his province including a port in Keti Bunder and airport in Islamkot.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that the CPEC was not only a game changer for South Asia but also for Central Asia and regions beyond. He said, CPEC would have global implications and would promote trade and economic activities in the entire region.