PRIME Minister Imran Khan has once again emphasized the need for closer cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad for early completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
During his meeting with Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong in Islamabad on Friday, he remarked that CPEC being a transformational project Pakistan and China should work more closely on it to make it a high-quality demonstration project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
What the Prime Minister said carried significance in the backdrop of unending rumours that projects under the framework of CPEC have lost momentum for a variety of reasons and no new projects are being added despite bright prospects for expanding the scope of the initiative.
One would, therefore, welcome the views of the Prime Minister about the importance and relevance of the CPEC to the economic wellbeing of the people of Pakistan.
The Chinese Ambassador has held a series of meetings with the top leadership of Pakistan in recent weeks where the two sides understandably discussed all aspects of the CPEC and other dimensions of the bilateral relations, which is a clear indication of the deep commitment of Beijing to carry forward the historic initiative.
According to an official statement, besides other issues, Imran Khan and Nong Rong also discussed China-Pakistan cooperation in trade, commerce and investment, people-to-people contacts and mining and natural resources.
The resolve expressed by the Prime Minister augurs well for strengthening and widening the cooperation but there is dire need to take necessary practical steps to realize this objective.
Why are several communication and energy projects running behind schedule despite the willingness and commitment of the two countries to pursue CPEC cooperation to new heights? Why is ML-I not moving beyond files? What are the bottlenecks in the way of establishment of much-talked-about industrial estates where Chinese are eager to set up plants? Why is cooperation in the agriculture sector not getting the required priority despite the challenges of food insecurity and food inflation? We have repeatedly been emphasizing in these columns that it is, perhaps, for the first time in the history of the country that the bilateral aid by a foreign country is having a positive impact on the overall economy and welfare of the people
The most important feature of the Chinese economic collaboration is that it has no political strings attached to it and is motivated purely by the commitment of the Chinese leadership to help the friendly country overcome its chronic problems in different sectors.
This is already evident from the role that the CPEC power projects have played in addressing the perennial issues of electricity shortage while communication sector initiatives have linked hitherto inaccessible regions with other parts of the country.
China is also the only country of the globe that has helped Pakistan carry out its programme for addition of environment friendly nuclear power to the national grid.
It is rightly said that neither any bilateral donor nor any multilateral institution is willing to offer as much assistance as China is providing and that too without any conditions.
CPEC initiative is a golden opportunity for Pakistan to address its critical problems and clear road-blocks that hinder its smooth march on the road to socio-economic growth and development.
There is no doubt that the country is facing not just conspiracies aimed at derailing the CPEC-process but also foreign pressure for abandoning it altogether or slowing progress on implementation of the agreed projects but it is a test of nationalist credentials of the leadership that is expected to make sovereign decisions based purely on national interests, which must reign supreme at all costs.
Under these circumstances, we would urge the Prime Minister to convene an all-inclusive briefing session where relevant ministries and departments especially the CPEC Authority should give a project-by-project presentation including launching date, completion date originally envisaged, reasons for lack of progress if any, and proposals for fast-pacing implementation.
The shortcomings/snags so identified should be removed without loss of further time and the Prime Minister may get weekly feedback reports in this regard.
Similarly, issues affecting progress on fresh initiatives under the CPEC also need to be addressed urgently as their implementation could accelerate the pace of progress in the country.
We would also propose that Prime Minister Imran Khan may undertake a visit to China after elaborative homework for talks on different aspects of CPEC cooperation.