ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Thursday rejected the United States claims on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and defended the multi-billion-dollar project which was ‘beneficial’ for the whole region.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said the anti-CPEC propaganda was baseless.

Pakistan, she said, categorically rejects the groundless claims that CPEC was always in the form of loans or non-concessional financing with sovereign guarantees.

Earlier, Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affair Alice Wells sharply had criticised the CPEC, saying the companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the multi-billion dollar project.

At a think-tank event, Wells, who was on a four-day visit to Pakistan from January 19, said that there was no transparency in CPEC projects financed by China and it had lead to Pakistan’s debt burden.

Wells had claimed the Chinese money for CPEC was not assistance to Islamabad and the loans given to them will later take a heavy toll on its already struggling economy.

Aisha Farooqui clarified that the total CPEC debt was about $4.9 billion which was not even 10 per cent of the country’s total debt.

“CPEC is a long term project negotiated through a multi-layered process. It has helped Pakistan to address development gaps in energy, infrastructure, industrialization and job creation,” she added.

Aisha Farooqui stressed it should be perceived in terms of enormous economic benefits for the people of Pakistan and social economic development. The spokesperson continued: “We believe it is also beneficial for regional connectivity and prosperity.”

“Pakistan and China were all weather strategic cooperative partners. The CPEC is a transformational project for Pakistan and its expeditious completion is our top priority. In that regard, a CPEC authority has recently been established to oversee completion of the projects,” she maintained.

The spokesperson said that 12 corridor related power projects had either been completed or were under construction with the total capacity of 7240 megawatts with an investment of $12.4 billion. 

“Another nine power projects are at an early stage with the capacity of six thousand three hundred and ninety megawatt,” she said.

Aisha Farooqui said the energy projects “contribute over 14 per cent of the total energy supplies in Pakistan. The projects have also paid about $250 million in taxes during the construction phase and have created over 10,000 jobs.” She said all countries were welcomed to invest in special economic zones of CPEC.

To a question, the spokesperson reiterated support for ‘One China Policy’, saying “there is only one China and Taiwan is part of it.”

The spokesperson said Pakistan welcomed US President Donald Trump’s mediation offer on Kashmir dispute and hoped these will be translated into some actions.

Responding to another question, the spokesperson said Pakistan has taken a whole range of steps to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Pakistan, she said, remained closely engaged with the FATF members including the US.

About the induction of S-400 Air Defence system by India, Aisha Farooqui said Pakistan had repeatedly expressed concerns over the induction of ballistic missile defence system in the region.

She said such destabilising systems can undermine regional stability and may lead to an unnecessary arms race. The spokesperson said Pakistan had proposed discussion on a strategic restraint regime for South Asia which includes the proposal to avoid the induction of the destabilising weapons.

The spokesperson said the induction of ballistic missile defence system by India should not lead to any false sense of security and any misadventure since Pakistan has the technological capability to ensure the continued efficacy of its deterrence.

She expressed the confidence that extra regional countries will be mindful of the legitimate security concerns of Pakistan.

She condemned the violations of the human rights in held Kashmir and urged the world to take notice of the situation. The spokesperson said Pakistan will continue to highlight the Kashmir issue at all forums.