UAE seeking investment avenues in multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

In this file photo, Chinese trucks stand on a pontoon during the opening of a trade project in Gwadar port, some 700 kms west of the Pakistani city of Karachi on Nov. 13, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

UAE seeking investment avenues in multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

  • Valued at well over $60 billion, CPEC is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative
  • UAE plans to introduce small and medium enterprises to CPEC Special Economic Zones

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates has expressed its interest in exploring investment opportunities in the second and third phase projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Emirati officials announced on Tuesday, following talks with Chinese officials in Islamabad.
CPEC, which is valued at well over $60 billion is a part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the two phases under discussion related to key infrastructure and development plans.
The UAE Embassy in Islamabad posted on its official Twitter account that its Deputy Head of Mission, Abdul Aziz Al Neyadi, had met the General Manager of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), Li Zhihuai, to discuss the ways of joint cooperation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The CRBC and Chinese embassy officials did not respond to Arab News’ requests for comment.
Al Neyadi told Arab News that the meeting agenda with the representatives of China’s state-owned CRBC was held to explore “how UAE could participate and invest in the second and third phases of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor especially in the (projects associated with the) port, railways, and free zones.”
The UAE, he said, wanted to “encourage small and medium Emirati businesses to participate in these free zones,” to open new vistas for UAE enterprises which would bring foreign investment into CPEC, the linchpin of China’s BRI.
“UAE and China have common interests,” Al Neyadi said. Both are “ready to jointly work in a third country, as UAE and Chinese governments enjoy strong relations with Pakistan.”
In May this year, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al-Zaabi, said many companies in his country were keen to invest in the deep-sea port city of Gwadar, which is widely considered the crown jewel of the project.
An official statement quoting Al-Zaabi said, “Pakistan and UAE need to work together to further upgrade their ties aiming at developing a strategic partnership.”
Pakistan had last year emphasized the improvement of its railways, special economic zones and third-country participation during the eighth Joint Cooperation Committee meeting held in Beijing following the completion of the first phase.
The UAE is not the only Gulf state to see potential in CPEC. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan signed three major investment deals for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects in September 2018. Riyadh will also be investing in an Aramco oil refinery project that will be constructed in the southwestern province of Balochistan and house a petrochemical complex project at Gwadar’s deep-sea port.
Speaking with Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan at the PM office on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his resolve to complete ongoing projects under the CPEC which had contributed substantially to Pakistan’s development and prosperity, reported state-owned news agency, APP.


India delays signing Kartarpur corridor deal with Pakistan

Updated 22 October 2019

India delays signing Kartarpur corridor deal with Pakistan

  • Border crossing will give pilgrims visa-free access to holy Sikh shrine
  • Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh expected to attend the inaugural ceremony

NEW DELHI, LAHORE: India has postponed signing a deal that will allow Sikhs to visit a holy shrine in neighboring Pakistan without a visa, a Foreign Ministry official in New Delhi was reported as saying.
The Kartarpur Corridor connects the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib, in India’s Punjab region, to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.
The visa-free border crossing will be inaugurated next month, days ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder.
Media reports said that the signing of the deal had been pushed back by a day to Oct. 24 and that C L Das, an official handling internal security at India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, would meet Pakistan officials along the border to sign the agreement.
The corridor is a rare example of cooperation and diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February following a suicide attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Ties nose-dived further in August when India flooded its portion of the disputed valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.
But finalizing the corridor project has proved tricky.
Earlier this week, India’s External Affairs Ministry said it was disappointed by Pakistan’s decision to levy a $20 service fee per pilgrim.
“It is a matter of disappointment that while understanding has been reached on most of the elements for facilitating the visit of pilgrims from India, Pakistan continue to insist on levying a service fee," said the ministry. "Government has consistently urged Pakistan that in deference to the wishes of the pilgrims, it should not levy such a fee. While agreeing to sign the agreement, the government of Pakistan has been once again urged to reconsider its insistence to levy service fee on pilgrims. India would be ready to amend the agreement accordingly at any time.”
The connecting bridge at the border was also a significant issue. India favored an elevated bridge but Pakistan was only willing to build an embankment, fearing a possible breach in security.
New Delhi said all the infrastructure was in place in time for the project’s inauguration, which is expected to be attended by former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Islamabad has also invited Singh to be part of the inaugural ceremony but he has yet to accept. Despite the bumps in the road Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was upbeat about the unveiling.
“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” he posted on Facebook. “World’s largest gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”
Although the opening of the corridor is unlikely to lead to any kind of bilateral engagement or rapprochement between the two nations, Sikhs will be relieved that it is easier to access the shrine in Kartarpur.
The community has long sought easier access to Kartarpur, a village just four kilometers over the border in Pakistan, as it used to demand a lengthy visa and travel process.
Pilgrims will get special permits to access the shrine. Up to 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to access the corridor daily.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor, but it is unclear if he will cross into Pakistan afterwards.