Home Latest News CPEC Moving Forward Despite Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic: Asim Iftikhar

CPEC Moving Forward Despite Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic: Asim Iftikhar

by Newsweek Pakistan
Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

File photo

Foreign Office spokesperson claims India has yet to communicate necessary details for transportation of wheat to Afghanistan via Wagah border

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is moving forward as the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative despite the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Friday.

“I would like to share a roundup of major achievements in CPEC, which has continued to move forward as a flagship of Belt and Road despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” said spokesman Asim Iftikhar at a weekly media briefing, rejecting the impression in some sections of media that the project had slowed down because of various issues, including Beijing’s concerns about workers’ security in Pakistan; pending payments to Chinese power plants; and a longstanding delay to implementing the Railways ML-1 upgrade project.

Clarifying that 27 projects conceived under CPEC were at various stages of preparation and implementation, he said its ambit had been expanded to include agriculture, science and technology and IT cooperation. “Work on major infrastructure projects has [also] continued apace and a number of new mega projects have been endorsed by the JCC [Joint Cooperation Committee] of CPEC,” he said. “These include the Azad Pattan and Kohala hydropower projects, which will help address Pakistan’s food security while also ensuring access to green and cost-competitive energy for our industrial growth,” he added.

A day earlier, the Chinese foreign ministry had likewise dismissed reports of slowdown as “disinformation.”

Concerns about progress on CPEC have made headlines following the Foreign Office’s announcement that Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to visit Beijing from Feb. 3-5 to attend the launching ceremony of the Winter Olympics. According to the Foreign Office, the prime minister is also set to to meet Chinese leaders during his visit, with CPEC expected to top the agenda of discussions.

India ties

Spokesperson Iftikhar also updated media on an Indian consignment of wheat for Afghanistan that Pakistan had agreed to allow it to transport via the Wagah border, saying that New Delhi had yet to communicate necessary information to Islamabad. “We have conveyed to the India side necessary details of arrangements put in place by Pakistan, and for about 3 weeks now, are awaiting further response from India of the date of dispatch and other information regarding the first consignment,” he said.

Last year, India announced it would donate 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan to help avert a hunger crisis and sought Pakistan’s permission to transport food grain through the Wagah border. Islamabad granted the permission, but differences persist over the modalities.

To a question on demilitarization of Siachen, Iftikhar said Pakistan continued to desire peaceful relations with all its neighbors. However, he stressed, the past two years had exposed a “hostile” attitude from India that had made it difficult for ties between the two countries to move forward.

“We are committed to improving relations with India and have a dialogue that is meaningful, constructive, result-oriented and sustained. But India has vitiated the environment—the conditions are not there. We have repeatedly said that the onus lies on India to take necessary steps for an environment conducive for dialogue,” he added.

The spokesperson recalled that relations between Pakistan and India had deteriorated since Delhi unilaterally abrogated India-held Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Aug. 5, 2019. To a question, he said the international community must do more to pressure India to halt its oppression of Kashmiris in the occupied valley.

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