ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday stressed the need for expeditious progress on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
Talking to the newly-appointed Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong, Mr Qureshi hoped that he would use his experience in trade and infrastructure development to “fast-track CPEC projects and promote industrialisation in Pakistan”.
Pakistan and China had launched the second phase of the CPEC in April 2019. Industrialisation was to be the main feature of the second phase. However, the progress in the second phase has been sluggish.
Mr Qureshi, during the meeting, particularly called for speeding up the completion of CPEC projects at Gwadar so that the upcoming port could achieve its potential.
He sought increased cooperation in the agriculture sector and opportunities for Pakistan to export its agricultural products to Chinese market. Agriculture projects were also part of the CPEC-II.
The foreign minister expressed the hope that the upcoming 10th meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee would be “fruitful and mutually beneficial” and would approve the inclusion of mega projects in the CPEC. He underscored the importance Pakistan attached to the ML-1 project for expansion and reconstruction of the railway tracks.
There have been reports that Chinese have been reluctant to finance ML-1 project because of the low interest rate of the loan being offered by Pakistan. The $6.8 billion project is planned to be executed with the help of 90 per cent Chinese loans.
Pakistan had initially planned to start the ML-1 upgradation project in January 2021, but it looks that its rescheduling is imminent.
The Chinese envoy said that his country would “firmly support timely completion of CPEC” and would strive to make it a high-quality demonstration project of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2020