ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China are close to adopting the ‘long-term plan’ for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which would set the future direction for the multi-billion dollar project, a senior Chinese diplomat and a Pakistani official said at a seminar.
The two governments could consider signing the plan on the sidelines of ‘Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation’, which China is hosting later this month from May 14-15 in Beijing. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would lead Pakistani delegation to the Forum. Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is planned for May 13.
Speaking at a round table conference on ‘OBOR and CPEC from the Prism of China-Pakistan Bilateral Relations’ organised by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Political and Press Counselor at the Chinese Embassy Jian Han said: “CPEC Long Term Plan (LTP) would be finalised this year. This would set the focus for CPEC construction in future.”
Mr Han said CPEC has entered the stage of fast-track implementation. He said 2017 and 2018 would be the year of comprehensive implementation with Early Harvest Projects reaching fruition. CPEC, he believed, would add ‘vitality and dynamism’ to Pakistan’s economic development. He credited CPEC for Pakistan’s improved economic outlook.
CPEC’s Project Director Mr Hassan Daud Butt, on this occasion, said Pakistan had already shared draft LTP with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) for its approval and consideration for “signing during Belt and Road Summit”.
Sharing an overview of LTP, he said, while it would serve as the blueprint for further progress in CPEC, it also provides for cooperation in agriculture, tourism, and people to people interaction and development of ‘nodal cities’.
Mr Daud further hinted at progress towards signing of agreements related to Gwadar Airport and East-Bay Expressway, which would link Gwadar Port with the main national highway network, during the ‘Belt and Road Summit’. “We are expecting good news from the Summit with regards to Gwadar Airport and East-Bay Expressway,” he said.
The official said ground was set for CPEC to enter industrialisation phase with connectivity and Early Harvest Projects scheduled to complete next year. “We are expecting that by 2018 about 7,000 MW of energy would be added to the national grid and linkages of Eastern and Western routes would be completed,” he said. This, he opined, would enable the commencement of work on the development of nine industrial zones to be set up under CPEC across the country.
Former Defence Secretary Lt Gen (R) Khalid Naeem Lodhi called for developing more linkages with neighbours Iran and Afghanistan and said that CPEC offered an opportunity for normalisation of relations with India. He proposed allowing India to access Afghanistan through Wagah on the condition that it agrees to making progress on Kashmir dispute and giving step by step relief to Kashmiris.
He suggested creation of a “powerful and competent coordination body” for overseeing the project and underscored the need for protecting Pakistan’s interests in the project and keeping it safe from external security threats.
President Strategic Vision Institute Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative, once fully operative, could “lead to the development of a new international economic order something analogous but better than the Western international politico-economic order based upon the Breton wood finance intuitions”.