KARACHI: Saudi Arabia is the third partner in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday.
“Saudi Arabia is definitely our investment partner,” Chaudhry told Arab News.
Clarifying the statement issued by Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar on Tuesday, which gave the impression that no third country was being brought under the framework of CPEC, Chaudhry said: “The question was, will Saudi Arabia attend our joint ministerial meetings and he (Khusro Bakhtiar) said they will not attend.”
“Of course I stand by my statement,” Chaudhry reiterated in response to a question about his recent statement on the inclusion of Saudi Arabia as a third partner in the CPEC project.
Earlier on Tuesday, Bakhtiar said: “Saudi Arabia is not to become a collateral strategic partner in the CPEC. The impression is not true. The third country participation in the CPEC is not limited to Saudi Arabia but other countries can also become investment partners in CPEC.”
The statement about uncertainty over Saudi stakes in CPEC created confusion, especially in the country's stock market, where the benchmark KSE 100 Index shed 240 points on Wednesday.
“Dismal data on oil sales for July-September 2018, uncertainty over Saudi stakes in CPEC projects, surging core inflation and SBP policy rates and uncertainty over rupee-dollar parity played a catalyst role in a bearish close,” Ahsan Mehanti, a senior stock market analyst, told Arab News.
Dr. Ikram Ul Haq, an expert on economic and legal matters, said: “Such conflicting statements on vital areas are a great cause of concern. It shows a lack of coordination and immaturity on the part of ministers of the PTI government.”
The conflicting statements were issued at a time when a delegation from Saudi Arabia is visiting Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in the country following the first foreign visit by the country’s elected prime minister, Imran Khan, to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
According to the Minister of Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, the delegation was interested in the oil and gas sector, power sector and renewable energy projects.
Setting up the oil refinery in the port city of Gwadar remained at the core of the talks between officials of both the countries. “Both sides have agreed to set up an oil refinery in Gwadar and the line of direction has been determined in this regard,” Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told media in Islamabad on Wednesday. The agreement would be presented at the meeting of the federal cabinet on Thursday, he said.
Meanwhile, responding to queries in the Senate, Finance Minister Asad Umar categorically said that Pakistan and China are the “sole strategic partners” in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
He said that it was mutually agreed during the recent visit of the Chinese foreign minister that “any country including Saudi Arabia interested in making an investment in an individual project under the CPEC would be welcomed.”