ISLAMABAD        -      Trade war between China and the United States is testing for Pakistan as Islamabad does not want to annoy either Beijing or Washington, officials said.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Pakistan was trying to assure both the superpowers that it was not against their interests.

“For Pakistan, both China and the US are important. We cannot afford to annoy them and we are trying to assure them that we are not party to their (trade) war,” said one official.

He added: “On CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) our position is very clear. The US may have its own views but we don’t want to look back.”

Another official said the US seemed allergic to the growing influence of China in the region. “They actually are scared of China’s growth. CPEC is just an excuse. We want to move forward with China and the US. To be honest we can’t afford to take sides and we have been assuring both the sides of our sincerity,” he said.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi  categoriclly stated that CPEC was inevitable for the development of country and it will be further expanded.

Qureshi said CPEC was a game Changer for the region and there was no restriction for any country including US to invest in Economic Zones being established under CPEC.

Earlier, the US warned Pakistan that it faced long-term economic damage with little return if China kept pursuing its giant infrastructure push.

The top US diplomat for South Asia Alice Wells said the CPEC - heralded as a game-changer by both Asian countries - would profit only Beijing and said that the US offered a better model.

“It’s clear, or it needs to be clear, that CPEC is not about aid,” said Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South Asia.

She noted the multibillion-dollar initiative was driven by non-concessionary loans, with Chinese companies sending their own labour and material.

“CPEC relies primarily on Chinese workers and supplies, even amid rising unemployment in Pakistan,” Wells said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The corridor “is going to take a growing toll on the Pakistan economy, especially when the bulk of payments start to come due in the next four to six years,” she said.

“Even if loan payments are deferred, they are going to continue to hang over Pakistan’s economic development potential, hamstringing Prime Minister (Imran) Khan’s reform agenda,” she said.

The US has gone on the offensive against China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a signature project of President Xi Jinping which aims to build ports, highways and railways around the world.

But Wells’ speech was unusually specific in warning of risks to Pakistan, a historic ally of the US which has had a turbulent relationship with Washington in recent years over differences on anti-terror fight.

China hit back at the US after Wells’ statement terming her remarks a ‘propaganda.’ Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing questioned US’ sincerity with Pakistan saying Washington had several times suspended aid to Islamabad in the past.

The envoy said Pakistan and China knew what they were doing and how the CPEC worked. He said China can delay return of loans if Islamabad was unable to repay in time.

Pakistan banks heavily on China and the US as it struggles to come out of economic crises. China has always supported Pakistan on international issues while the US is the biggest donor to Islamabad.