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CPEC: unprecedented boost to Pakistan’s economy

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), massive bilateral project to improve infrastructure within Pakistan for better trade with China and to further integrate the countries of the region. The project was launched on April 20, 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping and the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed 51 agreements and Memorandums of Understanding valued at $46 billion. The goal of CPEC is both to transform Pakistan’s economy—by modernizing its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems—and to connect the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes. This would reduce the time and cost of transporting goods and energy such as natural gas to China by circumventing the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. CPEC is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative—to improve connectivity, trade, communication, and cooperation between the countries of Eurasia—announced by China in 2013.

Work is in full bloom on the CPEC and some projects are already complete while others are near completion. The pace and progress on these projects is satisfactory and work is continuing in a steady manner. It will effectively promote economic and social development of Pakistan as well as other countries in the region.

If we talk about CPEC Social Sector Development Projects we will find its positive impact in a number of areas running under the umbrella of CPEC. Under CPEC, effort will be made to promote people-to-people contact, media and cultural exchanges (including movies, drama, theatre etc). Both sides have resolved to promote Chinese and Pakistani culture and heritage for of long-term partnership.

The second major social sector development project is transfer of knowledge in different sectors. Under this initiative, experts from both sides will exchange expertise in industrial, rural and urban development, job creation & SMEs, water resources management and treatment as well as agriculture uplift.

Planning Commission of Pakistan is expecting 27 SEZs to be set up across country under CPEC by introducing Gwadar SEZ as first model based on area of 3000 acres on special discretion of China. The corridor will bring rapid industrialization and new techniques and technology as well as greater investment to Pakistan.

The industrial and technological revolution would create several opportunities in the country and to introduce and equip the youth with new techniques’ advancements in these sectors, enabling them to grab these opportunities. These changes will bring both social and economic advantages in Pakistan. One of the major social impacts of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)is flourishing of tourism industry. Tourism within the country is expected to boom in the years ahead making it a very attractive hub for investment in the tourism and hotel business.

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government plans to build a tourism corridor in the valley to facilitate travelers coming to visit scenic spots. Around 190km long tourism corridor will be constructed in the State. The estimated cost of this infrastructure project is around Rs.22 billion and the AJK government is also taking concrete steps to upgrade the existing infrastructure in the territory, under CPEC, which will also boost tourism in the region. Similarly, the region of Gilgit- Baltistan (GB) is considered paradise due to its sky-kissing mountains, lakes, valleys and lush green surroundings. With CPEC realization, number of visitors from across the world to Pakistan will enhance thus helping our tourism sector and generating revenue.

CPEC will also contribute to improving standard of living. As a result of increase in trade tourism and investment, Pakistan’s economy gets a boost and the government is now spending more on public employment opportunities. People’s income and standard of living are likely to increase.

Over the years, Pakistan is hospitable nation and its culture is convivial to accommodate other cultures. The inflow of Chinese people can create harmony among cultures. With completion of CPEC, Pakistan will avail itself of great opportunities from Chinese experts in various sectors like education, health and energy. The CPEC would also do the groundwork for further association among institutions of higher education and enable intellectual exchange between the two people.

CPEC will also help reduce travel cost and travel distance that cause decrease in illegal trade. Pakistan is today facing the menace of terrorism and militancy and CPEC will help the government to counter it. Prosperity and development discourage forces of obscurity and extremism. Another fruit of CPEC is that it will help in gaining internal stability because it will provide maximum opportunity to all provinces to get benefits. Gem and jewellery sector of Pakistan will also get a boost because of the CPEC as Peshawar is hub and the only direct market for all gems and precious stones found both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also China is the biggest exporter of both gems and jewellery so CPEC will help us to improve our imports and exports in gems sector and make new innovations and introduce new techniques by sharing with China.

Pakistan has a huge endowment of mineral deposits including precious metals, dimension stones, industrial mineral.

Each area of Pakistan is blessed with natural resources. However, there is huge gap between the potential and actual production.

In short China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a win-win strategy. The investment and construction of energy and infrastructure projects under CPEC will contribute to Pakistan and China in social, economic, cultural, mineral resources and others.

This is a long-term project and the impact will stay for a long long period.

Source: Pakistan Observer

Writer: Aisha Safdar

Dated on: 20th November 2019

Pakistan keen to take CPEC projects forward expeditiously: Senator Sherry

Chairperson of the Senate Special Committee on China Pakistan Economic Corridor Senator Sherry Rehman, in a meeting with representatives of Bureau-I (South and Southeast Asian Affairs), International Department Central Committee of Chinese People’s Congress, observed that Pakistan is very keen to take the CPEC projects forward expeditiously and further enhance and improve upon the bilateral relations.

She said that the equilibrium in the bilateral relationship should never be disturbed and that the Chinese side should be facilitated as much as possible.

Representatives of the Bureau-I told Senator Sherry Rehman about the upcoming JCC meeting to be held in Islamabad in the second quarter of the next year. They said that the event will be attended by high profile dignitaries from the Chinese side and same from the Pakistani side will be welcomed.

Senator Sherry Rehman said that JCC is one of the most pivotal exercises conducted by the Chinese government as it leads to more discussions and agreements, propelling positive developments on CPEC among other mutual projects.

She also stressed upon the need for doing more homework by the Pakistani side at federal and provincial levels to make the most out of such interactions.

Senator Sherry Rehman observed that the Senate Special Committee on CPEC will be soon visiting Gwadar to oversee the ongoing progress and infrastructural development as well as to play its part in integrating the local population with the projects.

She said that Chinese initiatives aimed at more than just energy and infrastructure, adding that the welfare and inclusion of the local community were substantial developments. Matters pertaining to the economic and political situation, accountability, climate change as well as the ongoing smog crisis also came under focus. Both sides agreed to bolster cooperation in order to tackle these challenges.

Source: Daily Times

Dated on: 8/11/2019

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China-Pakistan ties always a Priority in Neighbouring Diplomacy: Premier Li

China has always regarded its relations with Pakistan as a priority in neighbouring diplomacy, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, while reiterating China’s firm support to Pakistan in defending its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and legitimate rights.

Premier Li made the remarks on Tuesday when meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a two-day visit to China for discussions of the security situation in the region and economic ties with China. Khan is also expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Premier Li spoke highly of China-Pakistan relations. As China’s all-weather strategic cooperative partner, Li stressed that the bilateral ties, with no strings attached and are not targeted to any third party, are always a priority in China’s neighbouring diplomacy.

Noting that the relations are sincerely supported by two peoples, Premier Li promised that China will continue to support Pakistan in not only its national development, but also regional and international affairs by helping it play a more active role.

China-Pakistan relations serve both national and regional interests, said Li, calling for joint efforts to strengthen the bilateral ties to a new stage.

Learning that Pakistan has passed its economic hardship, Li said that China is glad to hear that and vowed to offer Pakistan assistance to its best capabilities.

Khan, for his part, attributed Pakistan’s stable economic development to China’s kind assistance and firm support. The prime minister pledged to expand the scale of trade and investment with China.

Speaking of economic cooperation, the two sides agreed to jointly promote the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar port, and beef up the synergy between the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and Pakistan’s development strategy so as to enhance cooperation in various fields and realise common development.

After the meeting, the two leaders witnessed the signing of over 10 bilateral agreements on infrastructure, law enforcement and security, culture, education, and media.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry, Khan will also attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition on Wednesday.

Source: Belt and Road News Network

Dated on:10/9/2019

President Alvi promulgates ordinance for establishment of CPEC Authority

President Dr Arif Alvi has promulgated an ordinance for the establishment of the ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (CPECA)’, Radio Pakistan reported on Tuesday.

As per the report, it is aimed at “accelerating the pace of CPEC-related activities, find new drives of growth, unlock the potential of interlinked production network and global value chains through regional and global connectivity”.

In August, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the government was forming CPECA to ensure the timely completion of the corridor’s projects. He had said that CPECA would help ensure coordination among the departments concerned.

“The completion of CPEC will not only benefit Pakistan and China, but also the entire region,” the premier had said, adding that the timely completion of CPEC projects was the top-most priority of the government and CPEC is a clear example of joint efforts and partnership between Pakistan and China.

The president’s promulgation of the ordinance for establishing CPECA coincides with Prime Minister Imran’s visit to Beijing which will include talks on the progress of CPEC.

Some officials and observers have said momentum on CPEC projects is slowing, in part due to concerns over the size of Pakistan’s debt and struggling economy, which led Islamabad to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package in July.

However, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Khusro Bakhtiar at a news conference on Sunday denied there had been any slowdown in CPEC projects.

“(There’s) a narrative being built up that they have become slow; I reject it, it’s totally wrong,” he said.

The minister said: “There will be meaningful engagement on all aspects of Pakistan-China relations during the visit”, expressing the hope that it would take CPEC cooperation to new heights so that benefits of Pakistan’s economic progress could reach the people at the earliest.

He explained that Prime Minister Imran during his meetings with the president and prime minister of China would take up a number of projects, while technical discussions would follow later this month at the joint working group level and then during the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting in November.

Source: The Dawn

Dated on: 10/8/2019

PM to visit China next week to ‘revive’ stalled CPEC projects

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will pay an official visit to China on Oct 7-8 with the main agenda of ‘revival’ of stalled China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

“Removal of all bottlenecks in CPEC projects and their timely completion is the top priority of the government,” the prime minister reiterated while chairing a meeting on the economic corridor on Wednesday. He said he would soon visit China and meet its leadership to strengthen friendship between the two countries.

It has been learnt that most of CPEC-related projects have stalled due to certain reasons, including prevailing financial crunch confronting the government and ‘non-cooperation’ of the bureaucracy due to ‘fear of the National Accountability Bureau’.

Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar apprised the meeting about CPEC-related projects and the progress so far made on it.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed briefed the meeting on Main Line-1 (ML-1) projects being executed to lay a new railway track from Karachi to Peshawar under the umbrella of the CPEC.

Speaking at a prize distribution ceremony for seminary students, Imran says uniform curriculum to be introduced by March next year

Education

Addressing a prize distribution ceremony for madressah students who had performed distinctively in the examinations of contemporary education boards and seminaries, the PM said the government’s plan to introduce uniform curriculum in the country would be implemented by March next year so that all graduates could have equal opportunities to grow in their practical life.

“The graduates of the new education system will have understanding of religion, contemporary knowledge and science and technology.”

He said the government planned to synchronise the entire education system to create social harmony in the country, adding that reforms were being introduced in the education system which would help uplift the lower section of the society with the provision of equal opportunities to progress.

Highlighting the plight of the Kashmiris, the PM said eight million people had been locked in an open jail that Occupied Kashmir had become for two months.

At present, Prime Minister Khan said, three education systems were in vogue in Pakistan, which was leading to injustices and divisions in the society. “The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had decided in its early days that the students of seminaries will be imparted contemporary modern education so that they too can get important positions in different professions,” he added.

Underlining importance of education, the prime minister said Islam laid special emphasis on education and that the “Muslims had ruled the world for 700 years not because of sword but education”. “Muslims are weak today mainly due to lack of education,” he deplored.

Speaking on the occasion, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said a uniform curriculum was being prepared for government-run and private schools as well as madressahs.

He said measures were also being taken to ensure that students of seminaries took examinations of contemporary education boards, and this process would hopefully be completed in three to four years.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2019

China’s development serves as example for other Countries: President Alvi

China’s Development regarding its economic flourishing, great contributions to the shared prosperity of the world and fight against poverty in the past 70 years have become an example for Pakistan and other countries, Pakistani President Arif Alvi has said.

In a recent interview, the President said that socialism with Chinese characteristics, which integrates a market economy into socialism, has given play to the massive productivity of the nation to contribute to the country’s economic development and helped the country lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

“I have personally witnessed the changes in China,” he said, recalling that he has been to the country for “a number of times.”

“I’m greatly impressed by the environment there,” the President said, adding that the way China made its huge population a strength “is commendable.”

“So I think the world should learn from China. In fact, Pakistan is trying to learn from China how the fast progress does come around,” he said.

The President said that after seven decades of development, China has become one of the major trading hubs and manufacturers of the world, promoting the flow of goods through the Belt & Road Initiative.

Referring to the support China provides to other countries, the President said that China offers its development aid “with no political strings” attached, and praised China for its tremendous efforts to help countries in Africa and Latin America.

Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that the corridor itself is not only a road, but also an economic corridor in which the first focus was to enable Pakistan to generate electricity.

“The second phase of the CPEC is also coming along,” said Alvi. “I believe the second phase is going to be people-centric to look at benefits for society. We are also looking at uplifting the people by giving employment and giving the benefits. So the CPEC is a very comprehensive project.”

“In fact, what we believe in and what we see is the way China came out of its own poverty and became a very good advanced developing nation in almost everything, whether it is space exploration, whether it is artificial intelligence, or software technology or digitisation of the economy,” the President said.

“China has made much more progress than anybody … So I believe we need to emulate the good things China did … So I think Pakistan can learn from China and the CPEC project,” he said.

On the friendship between the two countries, the President said that Pakistan is proud of the friendship with China as both countries share the same view on global issues, believe in the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and stand fast in defending their territorial integrity.

“The Pakistan-China friendship serves as a model for other countries,” said Alvi. “I hope and pray that Pakistan and China friendship will further strengthen.”

Source: Belt and Road News Network 

Dated on: 27/9/2019

CPEC projects picking up pace: ministry

ISLAMABAD: Apropos news item titled “CPEC Shelved?” published in The News in its edition of September 19, 2019 wherein it has been erroneously reported that the work on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project is being scrapped or frozen. Rather than being shelved, the pace of the flagship project between the two friendly countries has picked up after the incumbent government came into power.

The Ministry of Planning, Development & Reform in a statement clarified that:- CPEC was planned to be completed in three phases. The first phase of CPEC was to remove key economic bottlenecks namely energy and infrastructure. The current phase is about industrialization, socio-economic and agricultural cooperation and promoting business and consolidating developments.

In the first stage substantial work has been done. For instance, in the road category, a total of 1544 km have been constructed and 1456 km are under construction. In the energy sector, 5320MW of electricity has been added to the national grid while work on 7 projects with 4170MW power projects is nearing completion. Additional projects of 2844MW are planned. Also, cross border optical fiber project which stretches over 820 km linking Khunjrab to Rawalpindi has already been completed.

Regarding development in Gwadar, 10 projects in infrastructure and social sector development have either been completed or under construction. Among the completed projects, Gwadar port is functional. Most importantly, the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan for the integrated development of the city has been approved on 23 August, 2019 and ready for implementation. Moreover, tax concessions and investment incentives issue which was lingering since 2016 has been resolved which will enhance economic activity in Gwadar. The country’s largest airport, the New Gwadar International Airport groundbreaking was held on March 29, 2019 by the Prime Minister.

Currently the focus is on industrialization, socio-economic development, agriculture modernization, blue economy and tourism promotion. Framework Agreements on Industrial cooperation, Agriculture and socio-economic development have been signed in November 2018. Development of three special SEZs is on the priority namely; Rashakai, M3 Faisalabad and Dhabeji Thatta. Concession Agreement with CRBC for the Rashakai SEZ was signed in April 2019 and its groundbreaking of the zone is expected in early October. As the major obstacle in the establishment of these SEZs was to provide utilities to the Zone, the current government has agreed to provide the utilities at zero point through its own resources.

In the social sector development, 27 projects in the area of education, health, agriculture, poverty alleviation, agriculture and water supply have been identified of which 17 are on priority list and will be completed in this phase. For the MLI project, financing committee has been constituted to expedite work on the ML1 Project. Negotiations for petro chemical plant, refinery and gas pipeline are also ongoing.

It is evident that CPEC is on track and enjoying the full backing of the two countries. The roll back or slowing down of this flagship initiative is mere propaganda which is not based on ground reality and facts.

Therefore, the news item is not based on facts and lacks veracity. Further, such baseless news also carries the risk of creating ambiguities and confusion regarding this all important framework between the two friendly countries.

Source: The News 

Dated on: 20/9/2019

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Iran’s CPEC-Parallel Pipeline (E-CPEC+) Plans Could Ruin India’s Regional Vision

India’s zero-sum plans of using its reinvigorated strategic partnership with Russia to “balance” China in the region of “Greater South Asia” are at risk of being ruined if Iran goes through with its recently announced interest in building a CPEC-parallel LNG pipeline to China (E-CPEC+, with the “E” standing for “energy”) and receives Moscow’s world-class support in constructing this game-changing piece of integrational infrastructure. The Iranian Ambassador to India shocked his host nation by declaring that “Iran is now discussing an LNG pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as India is not expected to retain its prior interest in LNG imports from Iran”, according to The Hindu’s report about his comments made to members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents on Monday. His words are especially significant for the fact that they represent his country’s first public recognition that India submitted to the US’ sanctions regime and also signify a bold endorsement of the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of CPEC that India is adamantly against because of its maximalist claims in the Kashmir Conflict.

The Meek Shall Rise 

India already humiliatingly made a fool out of Iran on the world stage by complying with the US’ sanctions demands, victimizing its partner through blowback from the Hybrid War on CPEC, and entering into informal military alliances with its hated American and “Israeli” enemies, but the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and got Iran to stop behaving as India’s “junior partner” and finally become serious about changing its approach to it was likely the brutal use of force that was inflicted earlier this week upon the Kashmiris who were commemorating the matrydom of Imam Hussein. Publicly funded Iranian international media outlet Press TV extensively covered the wanton human rights abuses committed by the occupying Indian forces during this time and specifically pointed out to anyone who was unaware that Imam Hussein was also the third Shia Imam as well as the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, which is exceptionally important because the Islamic Republic of Iran is first and foremost an ideologically driven state constitutionally beholden per Article 154 to “support the struggles of the oppressed for their rights against the oppressors anywhere in the world.”

It is therefore absolutely unacceptable for Iran to not at the very least respond in an asymmetrical way while its co-confessionals are being visibly oppressed by occupying forces while attempting to commemorate the martyrdom of such an important Islamic figure, which explains why Tehran decided to cross the Rubicon and have its Ambassador to India publicly talk about its plans to construct E-CPEC+ despite knowing that his words would indelibly alter the dynamics of the Iranian-Indian Strategic Partnership. The Ambassador wisely referenced India’s decision to discontinue purchasing his country’s resources as the reason for his government exploring such a game-changing move, thereby ensuring that it can’t be interpreted as anything “hostile” or “anti-Indian” and indirectly laying the blame for any repercussions it could have on the regional balance of power solely at the feet of India’s political leadership. This is crucial to mention because the outcome could very realistically ruin India’s regional plans if the pipeline is ever constructed.

“Energy Diplomacy”

Not only would it naturally strengthen China and Pakistan’s joint regional position, but it might also do the same for Russia’s as well if Moscow decides to get involved in this promising project by bidding to construct it and then pairing its offshore gas reserves in Iran with the rest of the Islamic Republic’s available reserves in order to ensure that the pipeline is truly transformational in the geopolitical sense. Russia already signed a $10 billion memorandum of understanding with Pakistan last October to build an undersea pipeline connecting Iran and India via that nation’s territorial waters, but with New Delhi no longer buying Tehran’s resources, it makes sense for Moscow to modify the proposed project to end in the People’s Republic instead. While India might have thought that it bought Russia’s eternal geopolitical allegiance through the multibillion-dollar deals that were struck in exchange for its full support on Kashmir during Modi’s visit as the guest of honor at the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, it could very well soon find out that there are limits to its influence.

Russia and India are indeed on the same page as regards their grand strategic interest in jointly leading a new Non-Aligned Movement (Neo-NAM), which was elaborated upon by the author in his latest piece about Moscow’s “New Detente” with the West and importantly given an indirect endorsement by the Valdai Club in its latest publication about “The Eurasian Chord and the Oceanic Ring: Russia and India as the Third Force in a New World Order“, in which Moscow’s top think tank toyed with rebranding this concept as the “Peaceful Development Movement”. That said, Russia is sincere in its desire to become the supreme “balancing” force in Afro-Eurasia and isn’t hiding behind euphemisms to disguise any zero-sum ambitions like India is, so it’s entirely feasible that Moscow might seriously consider resuming the original “balancing” intentions of its “Return to South Asia” (prior to them having been offset by its partisan support of India on Kashmir).

Back To “Balancing”?

By doing so, not only would Russia prove its neutrality in the New Cold War, but it would also be advancing the “Golden Ring” geopolitical concept of strengthening ties between itself, Iran, Pakistan, and China, as well as preempting the possibility of becoming too strategically dependent on India (seeing as how its “Pivot to India” in Vladivostok was due in part to similar concerns vis-a-vis China). These interconnected outcomes would reassure Russia’s partners that its joint leadership of the Neo-NAM isn’t against any of them but is instead intended simply to maintain “balance” in the hemisphere. The resultant goodwill that Russia would receive from them, and especially the global pivot state of Pakistan, might even give it the edge over India in this nascent “balancing” structure that it’s jointly building with it and therefore enable Moscow to keep New Delhi’s pro-Western leanings towards the US’ so-called “Indo-Pacific” strategy of “containing” China in check.

In other words, although Russia’s leading participation in E-CPEC+ would be driven mostly by economic interests, it would nevertheless also have a strategic impact in maintaining the intra-Neo-NAM “balance” between itself and India, which would in turn allow it to avoid becoming the latter’s “junior partner” in this informal organization by providing it with the possibility of leveraging its future regional influence with other partners through this project’s successful completion in order to “re-balance” their relationship if the need ever arose. The very thought of this happening would hang over the head of Indian strategists like a Damocles’ sword in a way that’s impossible for India to ever reciprocally do to Russia even if it throws its full weight behind the US’ “Indo-Pacific” vision since that decision wouldn’t have any direct impact on Russia like its partner’s growing relations with the “Golden Ring” and the global pivot state of Pakistan would have on India.

Concluding Thoughts

The balance of power in the transregional space between West, Central, and South Asia was on the brink of being redefined had Trump not unexpectedly called off his country’s peace talks with the Taliban, but while the scenario predicted by the author in his recent analysis on the topic could still unfold if a deal is ultimately struck sometime in the future, it might have to be greatly modified to account for Iran’s abrupt change of approach towards India after its Ambassador there just announced his country’s interest in exploring the possibility of building E-CPEC+. The unforeseen timing of this development could change the grand strategic calculus at play by providing Russia with the much-needed opportunity to show the rest of Eurasia that it wasn’t “bought off” as India’s “junior partner” for “balancing” China through the jointly pursued Neo-NAM after the outcome of last week’s Eastern Economic Forum. Russia can put to rest any suspicions about its long-term intentions by actively participating in the construction of E-CPEC+ and strengthening its ties with each of the three other involved countries as a result, which could also enable it to keep India’s pro-Western leanings in check too.

Source: Eurasiafuture 

Dated on: 19/9/2019

China satisfied over speed of development work on CPEC: Bakhtiar

Minister for Planning, Development, and Reform, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar says China has expressed satisfaction over the speed of development work on China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Talking to a private news channel, he said Railway line project ‘ML-1’ is the most important project for the development of the country, Radio Pakistan reported.

To a question, he said all preparations have been made to inaugurate Rashakai economic zone during next month. The minister said the government is developing Gwadar on priority as shipping hub of the country.

The National Assembly was informed on September 16 that an agreement for the up-gradation of ML-1 from Karachi to Peshawar will be signed next month.

Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid told the House during question hour that the up-gradation of the rail track will be started from Sindh province.

Source: The Nation 

Dated on: 19/9/2019

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China signals veto in standoff over UN Afghanistan mission

China and the United States are deadlocked over a United Nations Security Council resolution to extend the world body’s political mission in Afghanistan, with Beijing signalling it will cast a veto because there is no reference to its global Belt and Road infrastructure project, diplomats said on Monday.

A planned vote by the 15-member Security Council to renew the mission, known as UNAMA, was delayed from Monday to Tuesday to allow for further negotiations. The mission’s mandate expires on Tuesday. To pass, a resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, France, China, Russia and Britain.

Ahead of the postponement, diplomats said China was expected to veto a resolution – drafted by Germany and Indonesia – that did not reference the Belt and Road project. China’s UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China was then planning to propose a vote on a short draft resolution, known as a technical rollover, to allow the mission to keep operating, diplomats said. But they added that it could fail to get the nine votes needed to pass because several council members were considering abstaining.

The UN mission, which was established in 2002, is helping Afghanistan prepare for September 28 elections and is pushing for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Talks between the US and the Taliban on a US military withdrawal fell apart earlier this month.

Election commission workers secure ballot boxes for Afghanistan’s forthcoming presidential election. The UN mission in the country is helping with the preparations [Rahmat Gul/AP Photo]

There are 14,000 US troops and thousands of others from NATO in the country, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded following the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the US.

The UNAMA mandate is renewed annually by the Security Council. The resolutions in 2016, 2017 and 2018 all included a reference welcoming and urging efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate trade and transit.

But when it came time to extend the mandate again in March, the US and other Western council members wanted the language removed, sparking a standoff with China. The council ended up adopting a six-month technical rollover to allow the mission to keep operating.

At the time, acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen slammed China for holding “the resolution hostage” by insisting “on making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”

He criticised Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative – to link China by sea and land through an infrastructure network with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa – for “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.”

At a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan last week, Cohen referred to the continuing impasse with China.

“We strongly believe this mandate is too important at this moment to have one Security Council member deny consensus for reasons having nothing to do with UNAMA,” Cohen said.

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, did not specifically mention the negotiations on the UNAMA resolution, but said Beijing was working with Afghanistan to advance “the Belt and Road construction to actively support the Afghan rebuilding and its reintegration into the regional economic development.

Source: Aljazeera 

Dated on: 18/9/2019