Prime Minister Imran Khan has roundly rejected the notion being projected by US officials that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is some sort of a debt trap.
In an interview with American media outlet CNBC, PM Imran said: “Pakistan is grateful to China as they helped us in difficult times by making investments.
"We were at rock bottom when the Chinese [government] came and rescued us," the PM said.
Responding to a question, the prime minister rejected the impression that CPEC has made Pakistan 'indebted' to China.
He pointed out that Chinese loans account for only 5-6 per cent of Pakistan's total loan portfolio.
He said CPEC envisages cooperation in different sectors, including technology transfer in the agriculture sector, and “because of Chinese investment, we have been able to attract more foreign investment in the country. We are establishing special economic zones under the project.”
In the same interview, PM Imran also called upon US President Donald Trump and the United Nations to intervene for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
He said Kashmir is a far more serious problem than the world realises.
He said India has been taken over by the extremist Hindutva ideology embodied by the far-right party RSS, and recalled that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a life member of this extremist outfit.
Referring to the situation in occupied Kashmir, he said eight million people have been living under siege since August 5 last year.
"The Indian forces have picked up thousands of Kashmiri teenagers and arrested all their political leaders," he noted.
The premier described it as a serious situation and warned that the friction could potentially spill over into a conflict between two nuclear-armed countries.
Iran willing to talk
When asked about tensions in the Middle East and the ongoing conflict between the US and Iran, the prime minister said war is not a solution to any problem.
He warned that a conflict with Iran will be disastrous for developing countries as it will lead to a sharp spike in oil prices.
He said the sensible way forward is dialogue.
“The US has spent more than a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and still people are dying there. Let me tell you, Iran will be more difficult.”
“And I told the same thing to [US] President [Donald] Trump, that war is not the solution.”
On the question of possibilities for a dialogue between the two countries, he said, “The Iranian leadership is receptive of the option”.
“They were willing to talk,” he said.
The prime minister made it clear that Pakistan will only be a partner in peace. He reminded the interviewer that Pakistan had suffered heavily both in terms of human and material losses in the war on terrorism.
Pak-US ties based on shared objectives
When asked to comment on the mistrust between the two countries and how can they can come closer, the prime minister said problems occurred when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf joined the US war in Afghanistan.
“The US kept asking Pakistan to do more and Musharraf promised them what he could not deliver.”
But now, the PM said, “this time [our relationship] is based on trust and common objectives”.
“Both of us are on the same page that there’s no military solution in Afghanistan and we are working hard to bring peace to the country.”
PM Imran said Pakistan is now a safe country and ready for business. Hailing the sacrifices rendered by security forces in the war on terrorism, he said Pakistan has disarmed militias and rehabilitated them.
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