Pak to engage China on big CPEC projects during PM Imran Khan's visit: minister
Islamabad, Oct 7: Pakistan will engage China at the highest level for talks on several big projects in the fields of hydropower, oil refinery and steel mills as part of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the country, a senior minister has said.
Prime minister Khan will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday on a two-day visit to China, Pakistan's all-weather ally, during which he would meet the country's top leadership, including President Xi Jinping, and discuss issues of regional and bilateral significance.
He will also hold talks with the top Chinese leadership to revive most of the CPEC projects that have reportedly been stalled due to various reasons, including prevailing financial crunch confronting the government and non-cooperation of the bureaucracy due to fear of the anti-corruption watchdog National Accountability Bureau.
Khan's visit to China, third since he took over as Prime Minister in August last year, acquires significance as it comes days ahead of President Xi's planned high-profile visit to India to take part in the 2nd informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Mamallapuram near Chennai next week. Speaking at a press conference a day before Khan's visit, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar on Sunday said Pakistan would engage China at the highest level for talks on several big projects in the fields of hydropower, oil refinery and steel mills.
Bakhtyar said Pakistan would start formal negotiations on additional projects, including a major overland LNG terminal, 7,000-megawatt Bunji hydropower project, Pakistan Steel Mills, oil refineries as well as joint ventures in businesses and science and technology, for agreements, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"All the existing projects under the CPEC portfolio have been streamlined and there is no slowdown anywhere," the minister said in an apparent reference to recent reports that work on some projects had slowed down after Islamabad's renewed engagements with the United States and the International Monetary Fund. "There will be meaningful engagement on all aspects of Pakistan-China relations during the visit," Bakhtyar said and expressed hope that it would take CPEC cooperation to new heights.
The minister said that Prime Minister Khan, during his meetings with the president Xi and prime minister of China Li Keqiang, would take up a number of projects, while technical discussions would follow later this month at joint working group level and then during the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting in November, the report said.
Khan's discussion would focus on speeding up the completion of projects under the CPEC and also expanding the cooperation in agriculture, industrial and socio-economic sectors. He is likely to address China Pakistan Business Forum in Beijing to further promote economic and trade exchanges between the two countries.
The Prime Minister will also meet with Chinese entrepreneurs and heads of different companies during the visit. The two sides will discuss immediate implementation of Phase-II of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, signed between the two strategic cooperative partners to further enhance bilateral business and trade. They will also examine the elimination of quota for all Pakistani agro products like rice, wheat, corn, soybean, sugar and tobacco.
Minister for Railway Sheikh Rashid said that during the visit an agreement was expected to be finalised for the upgradation of railway track from Peshawar to Karachi. "Once complete, the project will revolutionise railway travel in Pakistan," he said. On September 30, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said there was no slowdown of the CPEC projects and the two countries have identified three key areas to promote the initiative as it entered a "new phase".
The CPEC, which connects China's Xinjiang province with the strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan, is the flagship project of President Xi's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The 3,000-kilometer project is aimed at connecting China and Pakistan with rail, road, pipelines and optical fibre cable networks. India has been severely critical of the CPEC as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Reportedly, China has reservation about involvement of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in the CPEC related projects. Though, Pakistani official have rejected it, it is believed that Saudi's planned investment in an oil refinery in Gwadar in Balochistan, close to Gwadar port run by the Chinese, is source of irritation.