London; Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, while speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), London, said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a hugely beneficial project for Pakistan, China and potentially other countries of the region, was on track and would be completed with success.
He made these remarks while addressing the RUSI researchers and strategic analysts based in London, in a briefing session hosted by Raffaello Pantucci, Director RUSI.
President Masood Khan said that the CPEC was part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which by now was supported by 68 nations. China alone is expected to invest US $ 1 trillion in this trans-national, trans-continental undertaking. The underlying philosophy, he said, was to invest in regional connectivity and transnational cooperation by leveraging economic geography of adjacent regions. Infrastructure and industrial development, as well as mutually supported energy projects, would foster collaboration, reduce distances and bring nations closer as never before.
The President said that the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, had suggested that in this new era the existing and the emerging powers, instead of choosing the path of confrontation, should collectively and cooperatively mobilise resources for shared development and prosperity. This would also enhance the security of all nations, said the President.
President Masood Khan said that the revision of CPEC projects was an ongoing process which makes necessary adjustments in the projects undertaken jointly by Pakistan and China. Pakistan, he said, did not give importance to the apprehensions about the so-called “death trap diplomacy”. To start with, the volume of Chinese debt ($ 6 billion) is relatively small in the overall volume of Pakistani debt. The interest rates, he said, included the range of zero percent, concessional loans, preferential buyer’s loans and commercial credit lines, with a long repayment period. Pakistan as a solvent country would repay its debts, he said.
The AJK President also said that in CPEC, Pakistan and China had taken a geo-economic initiative but now it had become inter-meshed with geo-political and geo-strategic considerations. Pakistan, he said, wanted to maintain a balance in its relations between China, the United States and other western countries. He rejected a notion propagated by some countries that BRI and CPEC were “disruptive initiatives”.
In the question and answer session, the President elaborated the following points:
The CPEC will have longer-term benefits, which would include construction of Special Economic Zones and creation of livelihoods. Contrary to some misperceptions, CPEC projects have created new jobs for tens of thousands of Pakistani citizens;
CPEC is one part of the overall economic development and as such was working as a catalyst and a force multiplier, but it is not a substitute for Pakistan’s overall development plans.
Third party participation in the project could be contemplated after the completion of the early harvest projects;
The completion of the CPEC projects, in the long run, would have a salutary impact on human rights, human development, social stability and efforts to counter extremism;
India has objected to the CPEC passing through a disputed territory – Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has been trying to bring India to the negotiation table to settle the Kashmir dispute for the past several decades but India has declined to recognise the dispute and demonstrate any urgency to resolve it. Therefore, Indian objections to the CPEC sound disingenuous. It is highly probable that India resents Pakistan becoming prosperous and its markets becoming oriented towards East, Central, West and South-west Asia. That said, Pakistan has always maintained that the CPEC would benefit South Asia and other adjoining regions; and that, of course, would and that upon the resolution of outstanding disputes and normalization of relations among the states of the region.
Pakistan or other countries participating in the BRI do not fear that Chinese heavy investments would lead to the export of Chinese political model. China has demonstrated over the years that it abides by the principles of respect for the sovereignty and political independence of other nations, as well as non-interference in their internal affairs.
The bilateral agreements between Pakistan and China within the framework of CPEC are being concluded in the best interests of the two countries to promote win-win cooperation. There are no hidden clauses and expectations on both sides are clearly understood and articulated.