Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The Chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority in Pakistan, Asim Saleem Bajwa, has claimed that the development of the Gwadar port will play a vital role in promoting Pakistan's prosperity and regional connectivity.
A webinar, convened by Pakistan-based think tank the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, was attended by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing, Director General China at Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Mudassir Tipu, and a number of experts and entrepreneurs from Pakistan and China.
Bajwa expressed his deep satisfaction that Gwadar port is now operating at its full potential and said that the government of Pakistan is totally committed to the socio-economic development of Balochistan province where Gwadar is located, with focus on ensuring participation of local people.
"Vocational training is being provided to enable local population to participate and get fully benefited from the development projects under CPEC," he said.
The CPEC Authority chairman added that the Gwadar port is becoming fully functional and Afghan transit trade has started to divert towards Gwadar.
Speaking at the event, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, said that Gwadar has huge potential for the development of Pakistan and regional connectivity.
The participants also highlighted the significance of enhancing cooperation in the field of agriculture and food security.
The experts were of the view that developing special economic zones for agriculture under CPEC would play a key role in linking Pakistani agriculture based commodities with the Chinese food value chain.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s senior economic body, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved the railway project, known as Mainline-1 (ML-1), on a cost-sharing basis between Islamabad and Beijing.
Under the project, Pakistan's existing 2,655km railway tracks will be upgraded to allow trains to move up to 165km per hour - twice as fast as they currently do - while the line capacity will increase from 34 to over 150 trains each way per day.
CPEC has come in for criticism from some western countries, particularly the United States, which says that the projects under it are not sufficiently transparent and will saddle Pakistan with the burden of expensive Chinese loans.
Both China and Pakistan have continuously downplayed such concerns over the years. The move ahead on ML-1, which has been on hold for years, will dispel notions that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is seeking to roll back some of the mega projects that he himself had questioned when in opposition.
At $6.8 billion, the ML-1 project alone is almost equal to Pakistan's entire development budget for fiscal 2020/21, which stands at 1.32 trillion Pakistani rupees ($7.9 billion).
CPEC has seen Beijing pledge over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan, central to China's wider Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop land and sea trade routes in Asia and beyond.
The CPEC is vital to China to circumvent the maritime bottleneck in the Straits of Malacca that could easily be closed in the event of a dispute notably with the United States.