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CPEC to further cement Pak-China ties: Foreign Minister

Inaugurating a photo exhibition on the Chinese New Year at foreign ministry, the Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would further cement Pak-China friendship. He added, “the Belt and Road Initiative is the most significant transformative initiative in recent human history. Through a focus on the connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, connectivity of policy, trade and finance, we are observing a phenomenon.”

ISLAMABAD  – Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif yesterday said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will further cement the Pak-China friendship.

Addressing a gathering at the photo exhibition on the Chinese New Year at the foreign ministry here, Asif said the friendship between Pakistan and China was based on a common agenda of socio-economic development. “The friendship spans over several decades. CPEC will further strengthen the ties,” he said.

He added: “The Belt and Road Initiative is the most significant transformative initiative in recent human history. Through a focus on the connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, connectivity of policy, trade and finance, we are observing a phenomenon.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping had proposed the BRI in 2013. It provides the important network and platform of cooperation among countries along the Belt and Road regions.

Beijing has on a number of times asked Pakistan to settle differences among the provinces over the multi-billion-dollar project as the ‘bumper harvest’ was yet to come. Smaller provinces like Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa had complained regularly that the CPEC was now benefitting all the provinces equally – blaming Punjab of taking away more than its share. Several times, China itself had to intervene and ask Pakistan to remove internal differences over the CPEC to create a favourable environment for the originally $ 46 billion project – now swelling to more than $ 60 billion.

Earlier, reports said China had been ‘quietly holding talks’ with Balochistan ‘separatists’ for more than five years to protect the infrastructure projects financed by China . Reports said China wanted safety for its investment which promoted Beijing to contact the Baloch ‘separatists.’ However, China said it was not engaged in talks with the separatists in Balochistan for the security of the CPEC infrastructure.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said he had “never heard of such things.” The Chinese and the Pakistani governments, he said, had been working in coordination on security matters regarding the CPEC .

Kh Asif said the BRI was an extraordinary venture, which will change the landscape of the world through its development agenda and win-win cooperation. He said the visionary concept of the initiative was a harbinger of shared dreams, common prosperity and win-win cooperation among the people of the world.

The minister said Pakistan was satisfied over the practical implementation of the BRI in the country through its pivotal project of CPEC .

He said: “CPEC is making excellent progress and is rapidly transforming the infrastructure and energy landscape of the country. CPEC will further strengthen the relations between Pakistan and China for the prosperity of the region.”

Felicitating China on the New Year, the Foreign Minister said such type of exhibitions were proof of the close cultural relations between the two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said his country was committed to enhance ties with Pakistan. He said mutual cooperation will prove to be successful for both the countries.

The envoy said CPEC had brought the Pakistan and China even more closer. “The friendship is bound to grow,” he said.

Meanwhile yesterday, a foreign ministry statement said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on the invitation of their leadership.

“Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi undertook a two-day visit to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, to participate in the link-up ceremonies of TAPI (Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India) pipeline and associated projects. The ceremonies were also attended by President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani,” it said.

The prime minister held a tete-a-tete meeting with the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, followed by delegation-level talks, it said. “Both leaders highlighted the importance of TAPI gas pipeline and held fruitful discussions on subjects of mutual concern, including regional connectivity. On 23rd February, the Prime Minister attended a Handicrafts Exhibition in Serhetabat, along with leaders of other member countries, representing arts and culture of the four states,” it added.

The prime minister reaffirmed TAPI’s significance as not just a gas transit initiative connecting Central Asia with South Asia but a multi-modal project that would lead to greater regional and economic collaboration.

He further emphasised Pakistan’s commitment to the early completion of TAPI. An Intergovernmental Agreement on Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan electricity transmission line was also signed.  Later, he proceeded to Herat, Afghanistan where he was received by the Afghan President, the statement said.

“During the inaugural ceremony of the Afghan side of the Pipeline project, the Prime Minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan and stressed the potential of Afghanistan in becoming a regional hub of energy connectivity,” it said.

The visit, the statement said, was reflective of the Pakistan’s vision to eradicate energy deficiency in Pakistan as part of Pakistan’s National Energy Policy and transform it into a regional industrial hub.

“For the realisation of this goal, the Prime Minister is focusing on high-powered regional energy and connectivity projects that will not only augment Pakistan’s power supply but will forge better relations with neighbouring and brotherly countries,” it said.

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