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Imran Khan says friendship with China cornerstone of Pakistan foreign policy

Foreign minister Wang Yi conveyed the desire of Chinese leadership to work with the new government for further enhancing the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.

world Updated: Sep 10, 2018 23:06 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pak China relations,Pakistan China relations,CPEC
A view of the port of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said friendship with China is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy even as the two countries agreed to invite third country investors to join the $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Besides adding social sector and regional development schemes to CPEC, the two sides also agreed to speed up the implementation of the transit corridor and extend it towards Afghanistan.

During a meeting with visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday, Khan reiterated his government’s commitment to implementing the CPEC. He also reiterated that the “friendship with China is a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy”, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s House.

This was Khan’s first high level meeting with the Chinese leadership since he assumed office and the two sides discussed the regional situation and global issues.

Wang conveyed the Chinese leadership’s desire to work with the new Pakistan government to enhance the bilateral strategic partnership and also underscored the significance of CPEC for the “mutual benefit of the people of both countries”.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing on Monday that the two sides agreed to extend CPEC towards the west to enable more people to benefit from it. “We will identify the pathways and cooperation for CPEC. We will accelerate industrial cooperation…and extend CPEC to the western area and make the people get benefits from it,” he said.

Pakistan’s Planning Commission said in a statement the goals of CPEC will be realigned by introducing the new targets of socioeconomic and regional development.

Dawn newspaper reported the understanding on adding these two aspects to the CPEC was reached at a meeting between the Planning Commission and the National Development and Reforms Commission of China on Sunday.

Officials said Beijing wants the involvement of countries friendly to Pakistan and China in upcoming special economic zones because it wishes to steer clear of criticism, particularly from the US and India, about secretive deals that “remain beyond the public eye”.

Officials said no country was specifically mentioned and Central Asian, European and other nations, including Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia, could invest in nine proposed SEZs.

There was a discussion on Gwadar being re-prioritised as a centre of industries for export markets to take advantage of the port’s trans-shipment potential and location.

In a related development, Financial Times quoted Abdul Razak Dawood, the member of cabinet responsible for commerce, textiles, industry and investment, as saying that Pakistan plans to review or renegotiate agreements reached under CPEC.

“The previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on CPEC – they didn’t do their homework correctly and didn’t negotiate correctly, so they gave away a lot,” Dawood told Financial Times. “Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we’re looking at because it’s not fair that Pakistan companies should be disadvantaged,” he added.

Khan has set up a nine-member committee to evaluate CPEC projects and it will “think through CPEC – all of the benefits and the liabilities”, said Dawood, who is a member of the committee. “I think we should put everything on hold for a year so we can get our act together,” he said.

However, Dawood issued a statement on Monday that said his remarks had been taken out of context. He said Pakistan’s commitment to CPEC will not change.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 15:13 IST