Planning minister says Beijing never tries to use its ties with Islamabad to pressure it into acting as per its wishes
Planning Minister Asad Umar on Thursday said that a rise in Chinese investment in Pakistan also required a greater focus on security for investors.
Both China and Pakistan “specially mentioned and emphasized” the issue of security, he told a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the 10th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “Need and importance of security is increasing as Chinese investment is rising in Pakistan,” he said, claiming that the scope of CPEC projects was widening and there had been a surge in industrial investments.
Noting that both Beijing and Islamabad had expressed grief over the Dasu bombing and sympathized with the families of the victims, he reiterated a resolve to capture the culprits responsible as soon as possible to ensure they were punished in court. He claimed a “very strong” plan of action had been devised last month to enhance security measures, adding that a special cell had been set up at the Interior Ministry for this purpose. “This cell is not exclusively China-specific, but for all foreigners working in Pakistan,” he said.
Umar reiterated his claims of some global forces—“particularly our eastern neighbor”—targeting CPEC through attacks and “fifth generation warfare” such as fake news. These attempts, he said, would not hurt ties between Pakistan and China, as both nations’ top political leadership and citizens were “committed” to the friendship between them.
To a question on whether China had wanted to provide its own security for nationals based in Pakistan, the minister said this had not been discussed. “They [Beijing] realize and have a concern about security issues … but workers have remobilized and work has restarted,” he said, adding that it had been decided to provide additional security to any projects that included Chinese investment, even if they were not linked to CPEC. Special Assistant to the P.M. on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor, flanking Umar, said the Pakistan Army had given a comprehensive security briefing that had also been conveyed to the Chinese embassy.
On the extent of incoming Chinese investment in Pakistan, the minister claimed over half of the country’s foreign direct investment was from China. “Apart from that [if you see] our relationship, China stands with us at any world forum no matter how much pressure there is. When vaccines came and we tried to secure them, except for China we got them from nowhere so there is a special relationship,” the planning minister said, adding that it was very “difficult” to find a friend like China.
To a question on whether Pakistan’s foreign policy needed to be revisited in light of persistent security concerns, Umar said past decisions to get involved in other states’ wars had cost the country a major price. “That is why Pakistan has a very clear foreign policy. We won’t step back one inch from our friendship and relationship with China and we are not apologetic about it. We are very proud of this relationship,” he said. “China does not ask us to use this relationship against anyone, nor are we ready to do so,” he added.
Providing details on the agreements and issues discussed in the JCC, Umar said CPEC’s future focus would be on the overall economy where investment decisions would be made by individual companies. This phase two, he said would broaden the scope of cooperation and focus on industrial, scientific, technological and agricultural cooperation.
According to the Planning Ministry, the following agreements were inked during the JCC meeting:
- Memorandum of understanding to establish a joint working group on the information technology industry
- Letter of exchange of provision of Balochistan solar power lighting equipment and provision of medical equipment and material
- MoU on Karachi Coastal Comprehensive Development Zone
- Agreement of cooperation framework between Ningbo port and Gwadar port as well as lease deed of Gwadar Expo Center
The JCC was originally due to meet in July but the meeting was postponed after the Dasu bombing in which 12 people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed.