ISLAMABAD: Encouraging other countries to follow suit, China’s envoy to Pakistan on Wednesday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s inclusion as an investor in the prestigious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
“We will welcome Saudi Arabia and other countries’ investment in CPEC projects. China wants to expand the CPEC [all the way] up to central Asian states via Afghanistan,” ambassador Yao Jing said while addressing a gathering of businessmen and journalists in Quetta.
He also held important discussions with members of the provincial administration during his visit to Quetta, the capital city of the Balochistan province.
“Both China and Pakistan have agreed to further expand the CPEC,” he said, adding that the two countries will take a decision based on an agreed understanding of the project.
Yao’s statement laid to rest concerns in Pakistan about a potential Saudi investment in the multi-billion dollar initiative. The political apprehensions were a result of statements made by officials following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the Kingdom last month whereby they had labeled Riyadh as CPEC's “third strategic partner”.
Opposition parties, who had previously worked with the Chinese government, had raised concerns on whether the current administration realized that the project was based on a bilateral agreement between China and Pakistan. The issue also came up for discussion in the senate with some lawmakers questioning whether Islamabad had taken Beijing into confidence before inviting Riyadh to join the project.
On Wednesday, Yao said that the Pakistani authorities were deeply interested in socio-economic development and that the country’s less-developed western provinces would get more resources and employment opportunities because of the project. “China will help develop agriculture, industry and other sectors in Balochistan,” he said. “The province would be the main beneficiary of the economic corridor since Chinese investors would get new trade and investment opportunities in Balochistan.”
The ambassador also noted that some projects under the CPEC banner would be revisited in line with the new government’s agenda and vision for the country.
The CPEC, which is now said to be worth more than $60 billion, is part of Beijing’s famous Belt and Road Initiative. Its fundamental objectives include infrastructure development, power generation and strengthening of Pakistan’s agricultural sector.
Given the scale of the project and its vision, many experts believe that the CPEC has the potential to change the economic geography of the region.