ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said on Monday said that apart from investment in physical infrastructure, CPEC would integrate the economies of China and Pakistan and industrialise Pakistan by turning it into a trading & manufacturing hub of the region.

Speaking at a seminar titled, ‘Symbol of immortal friendship - icon of iron brotherhood’, organised by the Ministry of Planning and Development in connection with 65th anniversary of Pak-China diplomatic relations, he said, “Pakistan is investing in CPEC projects from its own resources, and alongside it, it is seeking monetary assistance from multilateral financial institutions under the CPEC framework.” He said that China jumped to top foreign investor position in Pakistan after CPEC, whose first phase would be completed in 2018.

Ahsan described the holding of the event at his ministry as a testimony to the fact that bilateral relations had entered into geo-economic orbit. “When the prospects were not promising for Pakistan, China reposed confidence in Pakistan by promising investments in CPEC, when foreign and local investors were reluctant to come forward,” the minister said, and added: “CPEC should not be construed merely as a bilateral agreement, but it should be seen in a broader context.” Ahsan said future of CPEC depended on business enterprises in both China and Pakistan. “Business enterprises in both countries will take over as they will realise the real potential of CPEC in the coming years” he prophesied.

Ahsan said that Quetta-Gwadar section of the western route would become operational by December 2016 that will provide Afghanistan and Central Asian states access to the Gwadar port city. He informed that DI Khan and Burhan sections of the western route would be completed by June 2018. He pointed out that due to CPEC, for the first time, the neglected treasure of coal Thar would be utilised for power generation.

The minister expressed the optimism that CPEC would trigger economic activities in far flung areas of Balochistan.

Addressing on the occasion, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong said that CPEC had uplifted bilateral relations to strategic economic partnership, and added that economic diplomacy now played an active role in relationships between states. He congratulated Ahsan on playing a key role in CPEC

Both Ahsan and Weidong also jointly cut the cake of 65th anniversary of diplomatic relation between China and Pakistan.