ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Friday said that Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project was still alive. Addressing a weekly media briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said the IP project was not frozen.

“To the best of my knowledge, the IP gas pipeline project is still on. For technical details, the concerned ministry can be contacted,” he said.

About the Pakistani troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, Faisal said the military and the defence ministry had clarified the position.

“Regarding our foreign policy priorities in the Middle East, we continue to exercise a balanced approach, which has been well appreciated by all,” he added.

About the Chahbahar port being under India’s influence, Faisal said: Chahbahar port and Gwadar port are complementary. We do not comment on bilateral relations and agreements of other countries.”

About India’s desire to join the Belt and Road Initiative, he said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor held a special significance within the BRI as it was the flagship project of this initiative.

“CPEC is currently a bilateral undertaking between Pakistan and China. It is also the only project, which is currently being implemented in a practical form. Both the speed of implementation and results achieved in [the] CPEC has been recognised,” he said.

Faisal said China had maintained its stance of closely cooperating with Pakistan on the CPEC.

“China has on several occasions reiterated that CPEC, under the auspices of BRI, is a win-win collaborative project for not just China and Pakistan but for all countries,” he added.

Faisal said Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office and condemned the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Line of Control.

He said on the invitation of presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, the prime minister was paying an official visit to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan from 22-23 February 2018, to participate in the ground-breaking (link-up) ceremonies of Turkmenistan- Afghanistan, Pakistan, India gas pipeline project, lines of electricity transmission and fibre optics.

The spokesperson said Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif visited Russia to hold bilateral consultations with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Foreign Minister Lavrov emphasised the significance of cooperation in the field of energy, including realisation of the North-South gas pipeline project, he added.

The spokesperson said Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation in April 2017.

To a question, he said visas were issued by the Pakistan High Commission in India on the basis of the note verbale issued by Indian Ministry of External Affairs to pilgrims.

“In order to facilitate them, our high commission allowed the pilgrims to submit their passports without the no-objection certificate. Unfortunately, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not issue any NV to the pilgrims, forcing them to withdraw their passports unfortunately,” Faisal clarified.

He said Indian arms build-up had pushed the region into a vicious arms race. Its hegemonic designs are a cause of serious concern, not only for Pakistan, but also for the entire region.

“The Indian desire to try to become a regional hegemon is casting a dark shadow on south Asia. The Pakistan forces are ready to defend our borders against any threat,” Faisal added.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had been hosting millions of Afghan refugees for more than three decades.

“They have been extended life amenities like health and education at par with the Pakistani citizens,” he said.

The spokesperson added: “Around 50,000 children of these refugees who graduated from Pakistani educational institutions are now working in Afghanistan in different sectors.”

Pakistan, he said, had always emphasised the dignified and sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

“We are engaged with the Afghan government and the international community to build settlements and other livelihood projects for smooth reintegration of returning refugees in Afghanistan and to make this endeavour sustainable,” the spokesperson said.