BEIJING: China today played down reports of Pakistan’s plans to cut down a railway project under the multi-billion dollar so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ or ‘CPEC’ by $2 billion, saying Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan has assured his support to the various projects under China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative.
Pakistan’s Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid had recently announced plans to cut the $8.2 billion Karachi-Peshawar railway project by about $2 billion.
It is the biggest project under the more-than $50 billion ‘China Pakistan Economic Corridor’ which India opposes as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
On Sunday, Imran Khan said Pakistan is reviewing the projects under the so-called ‘CPEC’ to safeguard the interest of the people in Balochistan.
Mr Khan in the past criticised former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for the lack of transparency and corruption in the ‘CPEC’ projects. He said that Balochistan had a number of reservations about the mega project.
Asked about Pakistan’s plans to cut down the railway projects over fears of accumulating debt, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media that the new Pakistan government has expressed its support for the ‘CPEC’ projects.
“You have only noted some aspects of the report. Recently on the advancement of the CPEC, we have noted that there are different comments and reports coming from the media.”
“You can see that the new Pakistani government and Prime Minister (Imran Khan) has made it clear that they will support the advancement of the CPEC,” Mr Lu said.
He was apparently referring to the assurances by the new government in Islamabad about the continuation of the so-called ‘CPEC’ projects during the recent visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Pakistan.
Mr Lu said that the ‘CPEC’ served the economic and social development and referred to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report which he said “made it clear that the advancement of the CPEC did not cause any burden to Pakistan”.
“The IMF also said the CPEC from a long-term perspective will enhance Pakistan’s capacity for the development,” he claimed, adding that all the projects were conceived after extensive consultations with Pakistan.
About the comments by some Pakistan officials to cut down the cost of the projects, he said: “We should view such comments in a comprehensive way. Actually, the advancement of the CPEC is conducive to the inter-connectivity and prosperity of the region including Pakistan”.
“We hope you can see that the CPEC is very important project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” Mr Lu added.
China had announced after the visit of Mr Wang to Pakistan in September that the ‘CPEC’ projects will be extended to the western areas of Pakistan. It would also be extended to Balochistan.
The so-called ‘CPEC’ is the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at enhancing China’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
India has protested to China over the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is part of India’s northernmost state Jammu and Kashmir.