Pakistan, China agree to push on with Economic Corridor plan

File photo: A Pakistani soldier is silhouetted against Gwadar port, 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Karachi, Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 19 February 2018
0

Pakistan, China agree to push on with Economic Corridor plan

ISLAMABAD: China and Pakistan have agreed to move ahead on the segment of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative which runs through Pakistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is expected to be completed by 2030 at a cost of around $56 billion.

The long-term plan for the CPEC was approved at the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting held in Islamabad on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated the East Bay Expressway of Gwadar port at a groundbreaking ceremony in which he hailed the efforts of Chinese and local authorities in building “a vital link” between the commercial hub city of Karachi and Gwadar, and listed a number of other developments underway in the town.

“The Rs. 170 billion ($1.6 billion) development of Gwadar is on track,” he said. “I am very confident that these projects will transform Gwadar — a small fishing town — into a city of global importance.”

Abbasi addressed concerns raised by Baluchistan’s administration about energy and water supplies, stressing that they were the responsibility of the government and not China. He said the issues would soon be resolved.

Abbasi also said that the benefits of the ongoing projects should be passed on to the local people and that the concerned authorities should “train, rehabilitate and employ” them.

The JCC meeting was led by Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development, and Wang Xiatao, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission. An estimated 150 senior representatives from both nations attended the meeting.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Iqbal explained that the plans for CPEC include Special Economic Zones spread across four provinces, including Gilgit Baltistan, which will be vetted by experts appointed by China, since the two countries had failed to reach an agreement on how that plan would be implemented.

He added that a railway expansion project in Karachi was approved and that China would help enhance information and agriculture technology in Pakistan.

The JCC also discussed the construction of Gwadar airport — a priority for Pakistan — which is expected to begin in 2018.

CPEC will start in Khunjerab Pass in the northern areas bordering China and travel through Pakistan down to Baluchistan’s deep seaport city of Gwadar.

Iqbal said the next phase of swift industrialization will pave the way for opportunities for Pakistanis in the Special Economic Zones, adding that an estimated $27 billion worth of CPEC projects have already been approved. Pakistan has urged China to speed up its approval process for infrastructure projects and to lend further money at low-interest rates for CPEC development.

Meanwhile, China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing met Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss regional security matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan border management and counter-terrorism, according to a statement by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Tuesday. The Baluchistan region through which the corridor runs has been plagued by insurgents, and although security forces have gained traction in controlling the situation, incidents still occur.

“They are also concerned with Pakistan’s relation with Afghanistan since China has stakes in Afghanistan. China wants safeguards in place to ensure CPEC and wants the two countries to resolve matters which could affect the project,” Dr. Manzoor Khan Afridi, head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the International Islamic University, told Arab News.

Financial terms are also a sticking point between China and Pakistan. “Financial management of all these CPEC projects must be crystal clear without any malpractice,” Afridi explained. He added this was particularly relevant at the moment, considering Pakistan’s political instability in light of the ongoing graft cases against the country’s finance minister and former prime minister and his family.

On the other hand, he continued, Pakistan has its own reservations about the terms China is demanding for funding the projects.

China’s desire to use its own currency in the free zone of Gwadar wasn’t well received by Pakistan, which rejected the demand saying it compromises economic sovereignty, according to local media reports.

“Pakistan wants the rupee to be utilized by China,” Afridi said. “However, without further consultation and research, it wouldn’t be wise to introduce each other’s currency across their borders yet.”
 


World leaders at UN look for progress on N.Korea, brace for Trump

Updated 10 min 53 sec ago
0

World leaders at UN look for progress on N.Korea, brace for Trump

  • About 130 heads of state and government are turning up for the six-day marathon of speeches and meetings
  • Unpredictable Trump takes the podium on Tuesday to face foes and increasingly uneasy allies at the UN General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS, USA: North Korea and Iran will dominate this week’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, where President Donald Trump will be in the spotlight as he continues to upend global diplomacy.
After warming up to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and ditching the Iran nuclear deal, the unpredictable Trump takes the podium on Tuesday to face foes and increasingly uneasy allies at the UN General Assembly.
On Wednesday, he will for the first time chair a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction that will focus heavily on Iran — likely triggering a clash with other big powers.
“It will be the most watched Security Council meeting ever,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said of Trump’s first time wielding the gavel.
The diplomatic gathering will take stock of the thaw in relations between North and South Korea, and groundbreaking US-North Korea moves to address the threat from Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Last year, world leaders shuddered when Trump threatened to totally destroy North Korea and belittled Kim as “Rocket Man” who was “on a suicide mission.”
An exchange of insults ensued, with Kim calling out the “mentally deranged US dotard.”


Trump’s address to the assembly will be the “polar opposite of what we heard last year,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, an expert on North Korea and Iran at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The president will tout his June face-to-face with Kim as a major diplomatic win but “he should think twice if he plans to repeat his claim that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat,” she said.
Despite the Trump-Kim landmark summit in Singapore, there has been little concrete progress on denuclearization.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has been invited by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks on the sidelines of the assembly meeting. Ri is scheduled to deliver his address on September 29.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will encourage Trump to press on with the rapprochement, but the US president is likely to get a different message from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has taken a tough stance on maintaining sanctions pressure on Pyongyang.
When he takes the podium shortly after Trump on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meanwhile address the fall-out from the US decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal which lifted international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.
European countries along with Russia and China are still working to salvage the accord and will use the council meeting chaired by Trump to defend what they consider a milestone in non-proliferation.
“The members of the Security Council are not going to take kindly to being lectured by President Trump on the subject of Iran,” said DiMaggio.
“These very countries, which include our closest allies, are now facing US sanctions as they scramble to save the agreement.”
Pompeo reiterated Sunday that Trump is willing to meet Rouhani as part of a “constructive dialogue” — but added on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that that seemed unlikely at present.
In a weekend op-ed in the Washington Post, Rouhani charged that Trump’s offer of direct talks was not “genuine” and came with a list of “openly insulting pre-conditions.”
And Haley — while she condemned “any terrorist attack” after the deadly assault on a military parade in southwest Iran — urged Rouhani to acknowledge popular discontent.
“He has oppressed his people for a long time,” Haley told CNN on Sunday.
The UN rendezvous takes place during a sharp divide between the United States, accused of turning its back on multilateralism, and countries that view the global rules-based order as their best hope to tackle the world’s problems.
Struggling with tighter budgets from US cuts, the United Nations has been put on the defensive as its peace efforts in Syria, Libya and Yemen fall short.
“Multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
About 130 heads of state and government are turning up for the six-day marathon of speeches and meetings on tackling a long list of issues from climate change to poverty.
Russia and China will be represented by their foreign ministers.
Among those making their debut on the world stage will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has signed a historic peace deal with Eritrea, Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.