Beijing: China on Saturday assured Pakistan of its full support to “tide over” the financial crisis, clearly signalling Beijing’s readiness to give fresh loans to its all-weather ally which is in deep economic distress. During the on-going China visit by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, Beijing also told Islamabad to “push forward” the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the heart of the Chinese Belt and Road project the feasibility of which Pakistan has begun to doubt over debt concerns. India is opposed to the $60 billion CPEC whose planned route is through the disputed Kashmir held by Pakistan. “The Chinese government will provide necessary support and assistance to Pakistan in tiding over the current economic difficulties,” China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said.
The minister gave no specific information about China’s financial assistance, saying the details were being discussed. He was talking to reporters after Khan and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang held talks at the Great Hall and supervised the signing of 16 bilateral deals.
Khan, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, is understood to have sought financial help for Pakistan which is in dire straits due to the ballooning foreign debt. “The relationship between the two countries has deepened since then because the CPEC in 2013 was just an idea. Now it is on the ground. And it has caught the imagination of the people of Pakistan,” Khan said while meeting Li.
“We feel that this is a great opportunity for our country to progress, to attract investment, it gives us an opportunity to raise our standard of living, growth rate. You will see the difference because a lot has happened since 2013. One of the things, of course, is my party has come to power.” Pakistan which has already secured a $6 billion loan from Saudi Arabia thinks the amount is not enough to clear the financial mess and has also sought a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF wants Pakistan to disclose all the financial details of the Chinese-funded CPEC for providing the bailout package.
The Chinese are wary of Islamabad going to the IMF, dominated by its rival the US which opposes the Belt and Road project. Experts say that the Chinese have pushed Pakistan into heavy debt through the CPEC, a charge denied by Beijing.
Some ministers in Khan’s new government have expressed concerns over the Chinese investments in Pakistan, with one slashing the budget of a rail project by $2 billion. However, Khan has pledged to work to implement the CPEC and has assured Pakistan’s full support for it.
“The vision of Xi Jinping for jointly building the Belt and Road initiative is being turned into a reality. Against such a backdrop, the CPEC also has new opportunities and need to be further pushed forward,” said the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister. “The two sides will firmly move forward the CPEC while ensuring the smooth operation of completing projects and advancing the ongoing projects.”
“The two sides will gradually bring the dimension of industrial cooperation to the CPEC and extend it to other parts of Pakistan,” he said. Kong said the project will also focus on the social sector. “The two sides have agreed to establish a foreign-ministerial dialogue mechanism to make overall planning and coordinate in various fields,” he added.