In farewell briefing, Alice Wells urged China to either waive or renegotiate loans to Pakistan in light of coronavirus pandemic
Praising Pakistan’s support for the Afghan peace process, outgoing Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells on Wednesday said Islamabad had not only encouraged the Taliban to pursue peace, but had also taken action against other militant groups and started dismantling terror financing structures.
Addressing a farewell press briefing for journalists from South and Central Asia via video-link, Wells said Pakistan’s relations with the United States had improved in the past three years, especially in trade. She said it was in Pakistan’s interest to seek peace in Afghanistan.
“As per their commitment, the U.S. had seen solid cooperation from Pakistan’s civil and military leadership toward the Afghan peace talks,” said the senior official, who is retiring this week, adding that experts believed the process would achieve success within the next five years.
Afghanistan peace deal
Referring to the Afghan peace deal, Wells said a peace deal had been signed between Washington and the Taliban after a year of negotiations. She said the Taliban had committed to bringing down violence in the country as part of the deal. The U.S., she continued, was upholding its commitment, adding that the increased volume of violence in Afghanistan was unacceptable.
The ambassador, who is set to replaced by Tom Vajda, said the U.S. welcomed the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan by President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. Regarding a recent rise in terror activities by the Islamic State militant group, Wells said Kabul and the Taliban should unite in the fight against such groups.
During her address, Wells also urged China to either waive off or renegotiate the “unsustainable and unfair” debt on Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “At a time of crisis like COVID-19, it is really incumbent on China to take steps to alleviate the burden that this predatory, unsustainable and unfair lending is going to cause to Pakistan,” she said. “We hope China will join in either waiving off debt or renegotiating these loans and creating a fair and transparent deal for Pakistani people,” she added.
According to the senior diplomat, the U.S. supports CPEC and other development projects as long as they meet international standards, and uphold environmental and labor standards. “I enumerated my concerns and the United States government’s concerns over CPEC, over the lack of transparency involved in the project, over the unfair rates of profits that are guaranteed to Chinese state organizations to the distortions it caused in the Pakistani economy including by the massive imbalance in the trade Pakistan now has with China,” she said.
This is not the first time that Wells has publicly questioned the viability of CPEC, having last year claimed it was detrimental to Pakistan’s economy.
Both Islamabad and Beijing have rubbished such claims, with lawmakers in Pakistan arguing that Washington has no right to comment on its internal affairs.