Change of leadership in Pakistan not to affect CPEC, Pak-China relations: Ambassador Khalid

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BEIJING, Aug 15 (APP): Terming friendship with China the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy, Pakistan Ambassador to China, Masood Khalid Tuesday said the change of leadership in Pakistan would not affect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pak-China relations.
“There is no change in policy. There is a new prime minister, but the
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is the same ruling party. The new prime minister has clearly stated that the projects will continue and increase. So there is no doubt or ambiguity on that account,” he said in an interview in connection with Independence Day.
On the increasingly popular buzzword, “Batie” which describes the
unique relationship between China and Pakistan, he said, this is a beautiful word.
He said the friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s
foreign policy. “We are close friends, strategic partners, and this friendship has evolved over the last 65 years. In fact, our cooperation is growing, which is a positive sign for the two countries.”
Ambassador Khalid said there is mutual respect and interest and
we believe that our friendship is true, selfless and kind and has withstood the test of both good and bad times.
In 2005, Pakistan was hit by a big earthquake. Subsequently, freights
appeared from China to give help and assistance. After the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, Pakistanis and the government helped our Chinese friends.
These examples signify that, if China is in need, Pakistan is there to
help in whatever way we can, and vice versa, he added.
“So I truly respect the definition of “Batie” it means “iron friend.” I
think we have established a good foundation for our bilateral relations. Our friendship will grow as we move along,” he added.
He said Pakistan is a developing country and has faced many challenges,
but it has overcome past challenges successfully.
“We highly value our relationship with our friends. Pakistan and China
serve for regional peace and stability. We welcome our Chinese guests on this occasion and a strong message of unity will be sent to the world.”
Ambassador Khalid said, around 30,000 Chinese work in Pakistan and
Pakistan government has taken responsibility of to provide requisite security protection.
For this purpose, the Pakistani government has raised a special force
including more than 15,000 soldiers who provide security to Chinese working on CPEC projects throughout Pakistan, adding, in addition, the four provinces are raising their own protection forces.
“We will continue to do our bit and make security improvements,” he said
and added, Pakistan’s security situation has improved.
About efforts to wipe out terrorism, he said, in the last two years, we
have cracked down on terrorism, militants and their outlets in Pakistan to a great extent.
“If you look at the figures, you will find terrorist incidents in
Pakistan have been considerably reduced,” he added.
Responding to a question about other challenges, he said, all
mega-projects face challenges and challenges come naturally.
He said, the Belt and Road Initiative is a big initiative involving
nearly a hundred countries and has to pass through many different countries, territories, cultures, systems, economies and taxation regimes. These could be considered challenges.
He however expressed the confidence that this initiative is for the
greater good of humanity of the global community and of the participating countries.
About the challenges to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he
said, in 2013, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Pakistan, both countries decided to launch the CPEC.
But after that, both sides had to undergo long sessions with experts and
officials, which took about two years in order to reach consensus, he added.
Both the countries discussed how to implement the plan, how to finance
it and how to translate it into reality which was a challenge.
He said, principally, the corridor was divided into four main
cooperation areas: energy, infrastructure, Gwadar Port development and industrial park and economic zone establishment, adding, “Alongside, we also worked on educational and cultural corridors to promote people-to-people connection.”
Regarding the debates regarding participation of provinces in the CPEC,
he said, the debate is a natural thing in the democratic and political system. But I don’t think it’s a cause for concern.
“There are provinces which need development more than others, such as
Balochistan, so they are keen on the benefits of the project. But all provinces will benefit,” he added.
About more interest taken by Chinese companies for investment in
Pakistan, he said, a figure released last year in Pakistan showed Chinese investment in 2016 was more than $1.8 billion, which will continue to grow.
“But if you put everything together, the cumulative investment figure
crosses more than $50 billion, but this depends on when projects start and finish. Currently, projects starting in different sectors could be worth around $45 billion,” he added.
He said their investments are primarily in energy and infrastructure,
adding, “But now, there is a trend of small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises in textile, cement, energy and food sectors emerging in Pakistan – we offer a good market for these areas.”
Ambassador Khalid advised the Chinese companies to seriously look at
Pakistan’s entire market potential and firstly consider Pakistan geographical location of being near the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.
He said the concept behind the CPEC is linking Gwadar with Kashgar,
enabling Chinese exports to go straight through Pakistan to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa and with lower cost and shorter time.
Secondly, Pakistan is rich in natural resources, which remain untapped.
Labor is at low cost and more Pakistanis are learning Chinese, he said and added, also, incentives, facilities and tax exemptions are granted by the Pakistani government to foreign investors.
“If you combine these factors, I think Pakistan offers good business
environments for Chinese,” he said.
On a map published by Indian media of China that excluded Tibet and
Taiwan and also suggested that China is working with Pakistan to corner India, he commented, “We also suffer from this mischief by the Indian media from time to time, it’s unfortunate.”
“I think the entire world recognizes Taiwan and Tibet are part of China.
I don’t think stirring controversy is the right approach because this causes instability within bilateral relations and also in the region,” he added.
He made it clear that Pak-China relationship is not against anyone; it
is for peace, progress, stability and regional development. Peaceful co-existence is our mutual policy. “But if a neighbor is aggressive, we, as sovereign states, must defend our territories.”