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Foreign Office Rejects U.S. Criticism of CPEC

by Newsweek Pakistan

Courtesy Foreign Office of Pakistan

At weekly press briefing, spokeswoman says Islamabad considers Belt and Road Initiative beneficial for regional connectivity, prosperity

Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday categorically rejected as ‘baseless’ claims by U.S. envoy Alice Wells that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project was worsening the debt burden on Islamabad through non-concessional financing and punishing loans.

Addressing her weekly press briefing in Islamabad, FO spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui said that Wells’ claims had no bearing on reality, as the total CPEC debt was approximately $4.9 billion, which was less than 10 percent of Pakistan’s overall debt. Defending the project further, she said CPEC was a long-term initiative that had been negotiated through a multi-layered process. It has already helped Pakistan address development gaps in energy, infrastructure, industrialization and job creation, she said, adding it should be viewed according to the economic benefits it was providing to the people of Pakistan. “We believe it is also beneficial for regional connectivity and prosperity,” she added.

The spokeswoman said Pakistan and China were “all weather” strategic and cooperative partners, adding CPEC was a transformational project for Pakistan and its expeditious completion was the country’s top priority. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government has established a CPEC authority to oversee timely and speedy completion of all projects under it, she said.

According to Farooqui, 12 power projects initiated under CPEC have either been completed or are under construction. These would provide 7,240MW of power against an investment of $12.4 billion, she said. Another nine power projects of 6,390MW are at an early stage, she said, adding the completed projects contributed over 14 percent of the total energy supplies of Pakistan. These projects have also paid about $250 million in taxes during the construction phase and have created over 10,000 jobs, she added.

Dismissing another claim by Wells, she said all countries were welcome to invest in the Special Economic Zones being set up under CPEC, and it was by no means restricted to China alone.

Responding to a question, Farooqui said Pakistan welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump’s mediation offer on Kashmir dispute and hoped these would be translated into some actions. She also said that the U.S. leader would not visit Pakistan when he travels to India later this month.

When asked about the induction of S-400 Air Defense system by India, the spokeswoman said Pakistan has repeatedly expressed concerns over the induction of ballistic missile defense system in our region. She said such destabilizing systems can undermine regional stability and may lead to an unnecessary arms race. She said Pakistan has proposed a strategic restraint regime for South Asia, which includes proposals to avoid the induction of destabilizing weapons.

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