ISLAMABAD-Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan welcomes British investment in China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

Speaking at the CPEC forum here, the minister said during his recent visit to the United Kingdom, he had talked about CPEC with his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt.

This week, Pakistan and the UK had reaffirmed commitment to take bilateral relationship forward and work for shared prosperity. The commitment was made at fourth review of Pakistan-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue in London. Foreign Minister Qureshi led the Pakistani side while the British delegation was headed by their Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The two sides agreed to continue building upon the cooperation within the framework of Enhanced Strategic Dialogue to take this partnership forward. They agreed to work together to facilitate business to business contacts, explore niche areas for investment, improve the business climate and raise awareness about market opportunities in Pakistan.

The British Foreign Secretary announced the UK Department for International Trade’s decision to double the available support for exports to Pakistan from up to 400 million pounds to one billion pounds as part of the growing cooperation in economic terms between the two countries.

Qureshi said new partnerships were emerging in the region and in this context Pakistan was interested in the investment of other countries in CPEC too. He said all the CPEC projects and initiatives will be completed on time. He said CPEC was a flagship project of Road and Belt Initiative which was a sprawling concept of trade and connectivity.

He said think tanks of both countries were working for the success of CPEC. The Foreign Minister said first phase of CPEC focused on infrastructure development and energy generation while in second phase industrial cooperation and socio economic development are our highest priorities.

Qureshi said: “We have set up special economic zones that will help meet these objectives. Cooperation in agriculture between the two countries is increasing at a fast pace.”

He said leadership on both sides was clear that CPEC was a game changer and holds immense opportunities for the benefit of people.

He said CPEC will benefit all marginalised areas of Pakistan, especially Balochistan. He said Chinese projects were commercial and public oriented.

The minister said cooperation in science and technology with China was also important. He said CPEC was the beginning of a new dawn that will usher in a new era of progress and prosperity. Qureshi said people to people contacts between Pakistan and China were increasing due to CPEC. He said the world was now looking towards East, including Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in his message on the World Refugee Day, Qureshi said Pakistan was committed to solidarity and support for the refugees across the globe. “Pakistan is proud of its historic role and contribution in shaping the normative and legal regime for protection of refugees. From the Burmese refugees in the 70s, and Bosnian refugees in early 90s, Pakistan has always a generous host to people seeking safety, shelter and protection, irrespective of ethnicity, creed or religion,” he said.

The year 2019, he said, marked 40 years of presence of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. “By opening our home and hearts, the people of Pakistan have demonstrated exemplary hospitality towards their Afghan sisters and brothers,” he added. Pakistan’s resources, the FM said, “may have been modest, yet we have always endeavoured to uphold the values of compassion, generosity and hospitality.”

Qureshi added: “These values find expression in the opportunities provided by Pakistan social mobility, employment, access to health and education for Afghan and other refugees. The decision announced by the Government to allow registered Afghan refugees to open bank accounts in Pakistan is another reflection of these values.”

Pakistan, he said, commends the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the face of growing refugees, dwindling resources and rising intolerance against refugees. “On this important occasion, Pakistan reaffirms faithful adherence by all to the principle of international responsibility and burden sharing when it come to protecting the refugees,” the FM said.

Even as the UNHCR and hosting countries provide protection and support, these measures are no substitutes for scaling up efforts to prevent conflicts from erupting, help resolve long-standing disputes, create conducive conditions in the countries of origin and assist in accelerating voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to their homes, Qureshi said.