CPEC & Alice Wells

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Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has once again in the line of fire and international forces are now trying their best to spoil and defame Sino-Pakistan relations. US diplomat Alice Wells repeated her criticism of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC during an online media briefing and had urged Beijing to relieve the countries involved in these undertakings of its predatory loans. On the contrary, latest reports of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) termed Chinese investment “participatory” and “productive” for the national economies of its partners and Pakistan is not any exception.

During her media briefing the US diplomat called on “China to offer transparent relief from the BRI’s predatory loans that countries are suffering from, emerge on stable footing. Many international reports and research studies have already negated her baseless tall claims because many countries in the BRI have their own macro-economic imperfections, inflexibilities having imbalanced fiscal and monetary policies and Chinese investments are rather value-addition to their economic development.

Wells had reiterated that the US was concerned about CPEC projects because of a lack of transparency, and the unfair rates of profits that are guaranteed to Chinese firms involved in their execution. It is again out of the context and unsubstantiated.

The Chinese embassy of Pakistan called her speech totally baseless and just a repetition of her same old tune. According to its statement, China always treated Pakistan as an equal partner and continued support its own domestic model of development and never intervened in its national affairs. Furthermore, it highlighted Pakistan’s responsible role in regional affairs and never exert pressure.

Furthermore, the Chinese statement upheld CPEC as an important cooperation project between the governments of China and Pakistan which has been carried out on the principles of mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, openness and transparency.

It negated statement of the US diplomat Alice on the issues of planning and implementation of the CPEC projects and termed it “open” and “transparent” carried out by the two sides through thorough consultations based on “equality” and “scientific” study. The said statement rightly highlighted the leading role of the Chinese companies in the CPEC projects operated in full compliance with local laws and regulations.

According to the statement, CPEC has so far brought $25 million in direct investment and created more than 75,000 jobs in Pakistan. Right from the beginning, China has been the major source for foreign direct investment (FDIs) for Pakistan in the past five consecutive years. Whereas, according to the Board of Investment (BoI) Pakistan only received over $1billion between 2012 and 2019 from the US which showed its huge disparity with Chinese FDIs in the country.

In the next stage of the project, the two sides will strength cooperation on healthcare, industrial development, agriculture and education. CPEC will give a new impetus to Pakistan’s economic revival even in the post-Covid-19 period.

The statement calcified that China will never force Pakistan to pay back “debts” and that “China’s loans have no strings attached as projected by Alice, the US diplomat. This is not the first time Wells has criticized CPEC. In November 2019, Wells had said that the multibillion-dollar project would take a toll on Pakistan’s economy at the time of repayments and dividends in the coming years. She had stated that the project was a form of financing that guarantees profit for Chinese state-owned enterprises, with little benefits for Islamabad.

Being strategic partner of Pakistan the Chinese companies did not suspend construction and laid-off a single local staff. The CPEC projects secured local employment and kept contributing to Pakistan’s economy. The energy projects are generating 1/3 of the electricity for Pakistan now. The Phase-II of KKH is almost ready for traffic. The integrated test and commissioning for the Lahore Orange Line have been successfully completed. The construction of the new airport in Gwadar entered into the second phase. All Chinese companies working for the CPEC have generously donated medical assistance to Pakistan in the current difficult situation.

According to latest reports of the State Bank of Pakistan, its debt from multilateral institutions amounts to about 47% of its total external debt, while loans from the CPEC is only $5.8 billion, 5.22 percent of the Pakistan’s total debt. Contrary to criticism of Wells, China supported Pakistan’s inclusion in the G-20 members “Debt Service Suspension Initiative” for the Poorest Countries.

Even international media, the puppets of international forces have once again become active to tarnish Sino-Pak relations by hitting utility, transparency and productivity of the CPEC projects which is indeed a “game” and “fate” changer for Pakistan and rest of the region too. Most recently, a article titled “Pakistan Discovers the High Cost of Chinese Investment” published in the “Diplomat” authored by Hussain Haqqani, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US, intentionally raised some questions about CPEC’s transparency and utility and termed it inflated with high set-up costs. It is totally groundless accusation which has no relevancy.

Politicization of CPEC is on the rise which has no substance. On the contrary, most of the power projects under the umbrella of CPEC are “cost, time and energy efficient”. CPEC energy projects instrumented to lessen “siege of darkness in Pakistan”. There was doom and gloom in the country and national energy emergency compelled the government of Pakistan to take extra-ordinary steps to eradicate energy deficiency. There was no concert evidence of high set-up costs in power projects of the CPEC as mentioned by Hussain Haqqani in his article.

Despite hue and cry in the international circles and media, CPEC is heading towards its 2nd phase in the country wherein social development will be emphasized. Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri has informed about the progress of Kuchlak-Zhob road under CPEC. The road, part of CPEC western route, would reduce the distance between Quetta and Dera Ismail Khan by eight hours. It would not only connect areas in Balochistan but also Dera Ismail Khan, {erstwhile} FATA and other districts. It would help set up new industrial zones to accelerate the socio-economic development of Pakistan.