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Key infrastructure, energy projects nearing completion: Chinese diplomat

TRIBUNE ISLAMABAD, Feb 8, 2019: Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy Lijian Zhao has said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects were progressing satisfactorily and number of large scale projects were set to be completed over the next few months.

The Chinese diplomat was speaking at a seminar on “Belt and Road Initiative and China – Pakistan Economic Corridor: Impact on Developments in South West Asia” at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI). The seminar deliberated on the rise of China as an economic power and its political, economic, societal and technological impacts on the region as well as across the world. A number of international and local experts spoke at the event.

Mr Zhao said that Sukkur-Multan M-5 Motorway, which is the largest project under CPEC worth $2.9 billion, is scheduled to be completed by June, whereas Thakot – Havelian Section of Karakoram Highway is likely to be ready by the end of the year. The 1320 MW Coal-fired Power Plant set up at Hub (Balochistan), he further said, would be fully functional by “the end of spring”. The first 660 MW unit of the power plant, he said, has already been connected to the national grid, while the second one would come online shortly. The Hub Power Plant is being completed at a cost of nearly $2 billion.

He noted progress on Karot and Sukki-Kinari Power hydro-power plants and Gawadar Port and Free Zone. The diplomat also emphasized on strengthening people to people contact to complement strong bilateral political, economic and strategic ties. He said Chinese universities was already hosting over 22000 Pakistani students. This number, he underlined, was higher than the number of Pakistani students in UK and US together.

Mr Zhao said that China has since the launch of Belt and Road Initiative six years ago invested $28.9 billion in 82 economic zones in countries that are part of the initiative with 3995 Chinese companies setting up businesses there. However, he maintained, Pakistan has not received investment under this head because economic zones have not started here as yet.

Three scholars from Deakin University, Melbourne (Australia), Prof Dr Baogang He, Prof Shahram Akbarzadeh, and Dr Zahid Shahab made their presentations on various aspects of BRI and CPEC.

Dr Baogang said that China has global ambitions and is exporting infrastructure in addition to building production networks and supply chains as it has accumulated knowledge, technology, raw material, and wealth. He asked China to address issues related to labour, land acquisition, and scale of investments.

Prof Akbarzadeh said Middle Eastern countries see China as a partner because unlike Western countries it does not insist on “political openness”, maintains business like relations, and boosts their leverages in negotiations with US. “China is presenting alternatives to the leadership in Middle East,” he said. However, he said, China’s weakness lies in its inability to exert soft power in Middle East.

Dr Shahab, while noting the creation of political consensus within Pakistan on CPEC, said it is a template on which consensus on other opportunities in nation building can be used.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said that CPEC added to business and investor community’s confidence, attracted foreign investment and accelerated the economic growth allowing GDP to grow at over 5% after a decade. He said business community now wants expedited development of special economic zones especially in Faisalabad, Dhabeji and Rashakai, full exploitation of country’s transit potential, and conclusion of revised Free Trade Agreement with China.

President SVI Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said detractors of BRI and CPEC look at them through the geo-strategic lens and from the perspective of power politics.

“The ascendency of a geostrategic perspective precludes the understanding of its desired objectives and undermines an informed and balanced discussion and discourse. From an overriding security viewpoint, it’s more being looked upon as a challenge rather than a cooperative enterprise,” he observed adding that from the geo-economic angle CPEC is promoting regional connectivity, infrastructure growth, trade and development.

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