China on Tuesday, 11 September, rejected a Financial Times report that Pakistan is mulling to negotiate the terms of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road project.
The Financial Times reported that Pakistan plans to review or renegotiate agreements reached under China’s Belt and Road project and wants to shelve the project.
“We have noted the relevant report, also noted that a relevant Pakistani official made a clarification on his remarks. On 10 September, Pakistani Commerce Ministry issued a statement that remarks cited by Financial Times were out of context and distorted its original meaning.
The Pakistan side refused to recognise this report,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in Beijing.
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“According to my information, the committee composed of nine people to review the CPEC aims to enhance exchange with China, accelerate the project and deliver more outcomes to the Pakistani people instead of putting it off,” Geng said.
The Financial Times quoted a top Pakistani official as saying that the “previous government did a bad job negotiating with China on the CPEC”.
“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 Pakistani companies should be disadvantaged,” the official said.
The Chinese-funded CPEC — worth over $50 billion — aims to link China’s Kashgar in Xingjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
India opposes the project as its planned route cuts through the disputed Kashmir region held by Pakistan and claimed by India.
Also, there are fears that Pakistan might get into a debt trap because of high-interest Chinese loans. But Beijing has always sought to allay such concerns about the Belt and Road project.
“They are over 130 countries and international organisations who have inked cooperation documents with China. If the Belt and Road initiative were out of geopolitical consideration, like someone said it is faced with risks and challenges and would cause debt traps, then it would not have been welcomed,” Geng said.
(This article was published in arrangement with IANS.)