Islamabad Pakistan on Saturday assured China that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will remain the top priority of the new government, describing it as proof that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative is a sustainable project. “The CPEC is proof of how seamless the Belt and Road Initiative can become with the help of all stakeholders,” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said while addressing a joint press conference with his visiting Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. In his remarks, the top Chinese diplomat defended BRI, rejecting criticism that the project has saddled Pakistan with huge debt. “CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy.” Wang said the CPEC, which is the Pakistani portion of the BRI, has helped increase economic growth by 1 to 2% and has contributed 70,000 jobs. He said 47% of Pakistan’s debt comes from the IMF and the Asian Development Bank, adding that 22 operational CPEC projects, of which nine have been completed, have triggered investment worth $19 billion so far.He also rejected concerns about the transparency of CPEC, saying those worries were “false” as all the projects had undergone necessary approvals.Wang, who is currently in Pakistan on a three-day official visit, said the two sides have decided to initiate a strategic dialogue and further enhance bilateral economic relations. Qureshi said he had extended assurances that the country will ensure the security of Chinese officials working in Pakistan.The two sides discussed various matters of mutual interest, including special economic zones along with the CPEC, he added.The minister said that Wang had extended an invitation to prime minister Imran Khan to visit an expo in China in November as a guest of honour. His visit came weeks after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan took oath as the prime minister.The visit also acquired special significance as it took place days after a trip by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford. Pakistan and the US had agreed to reset their ties and reached an understanding that the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government would try to deliver on each other’s expectations.