As strong points are always decisive in navigating plans on national and international fronts, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), being strong point in reviving Pakistan economy, is all set to play anchoring role in new foreign policy.

 “America first” is a linchpin of US foreign Policy. Xi’s global Belt and Road Initiative (BR) is deeply cantered in China foreign Policy. While CPEC sets the tone and direction in connotations of Pakistan’s fresh foreign policy to be laid down soon.

CPEC’s ascendency as lifeline for Pakistan survivability and development traction may be gauged by candid gestures of new PTI-led government that termed Sino-Pak relations and CPEC as cornerstone of Pakistan foreign policy. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi conveyed loud and clear to all and sundry that Pakistan put CPEC on top priority valuing it as game-changer.

Now CPEC is not a subject of commerce and trade for China and Pakistan. If it had been a topic of economy, there would have been meeting between China Commerce Minister and Pakistan Commerce Minister. Frankly speaking first huddle came about among high officials of both countries’ foreign ministries. Instead of commerce or trade ministers, Pakistan foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi met with each other and dialogue thrust pivoted on CPEC.  

Visiting of Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi along with a high-level delegation — including three vice-ministers with carrying China Premier Li Keqiang for an official visit to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made more clarity. It is convincing to note that this is the first official visit by a Chinese dignitary which came on the heels of visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa after the new government came to power.

As a fact of the matter when scathing torrent of criticism was unleashed against CPEC to make it controversial misquoting Prime Minister Imran Khan's advisor on commerce, textiles, industries and investment, Abdul Razak Dawood statements in Financial Times, both foreign ministries came to rescue.

Pakistan issued official rebuttals without any loss of time sending categorical message to the world that CPEC, flagship project of X’s Belt and Road Initiative, is the core part of China and Pakistan deep-rooted bilateral ties and also takes centre stage in formulation of new foreign policy.  

Determining new meaning to CPEC progress on fast-track on multiple areas is aligned with the China vision which places Pakistan in the priority position of China's foreign policy and neighbouring diplomacy.

According to sources, new foreign policy will be hankering for keep the ball rolling on CPEC related projects without any halt, taking stock of next economic and social development benchmarks desired by Pakistan to meet needs of the people and the future prosperity path and collaboration. In order to make things happen, government has constituted a 9 member committee which will focus on the progress of the project in various areas of energy, infrastructure and industrial zones.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is playing leading role in committee headed by the Minister of Planning, Development and Reform, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar. Other members includes Minister for Law and Justice Naseem, Minister for Finance Asad Umar, Minister for Petroleum Division Ghulam Sarwar, Minister for Railway Sheikh Rashid and PM's advisers on Commerce, Textile, Industry, Production and Investment.

Foreign Ministry official disclosed that vicious propaganda was spewed against CPEC taking advantages of previous PTI politicians’ perceptions in which they showed reservations on merits of CPEC related projects, allocation of funds and priorities areas. Later, some mishaps also incur dents on BRI fate. Like Malaysia last month put on hold the China-backed US$20-billion East Coast Rail Link and two pipeline projects costing US$2 billion mentioning cost issues. Myanmar hinted to scale back plans for the Kyauk Pyu port development due to debt problems. Meanwhile, the fate of two hydropower projects in Nepal looks in limbo, while a rail link through Laos could be costlier may be leading for debt risks.

However in Pakistan case, debt concerns are unfound and groundless.  Technically speaking 18 of the projects are financed through direct Chinese investment or with the Chinese assistance. Only four projects have been using concessional loans of roughly $6 billion.

If compared debt scenario statically, Pakistan has to pay 47 percent of its external debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank. Chinese debit share is just $8.4 billion out of total $69 billion foreign debt. Pakistan is paying two percent interest on CPEC loans until they are completed, according to Pakistani and Chinese officials. The total interest due by 2022 will be about $1 billion.

Under CPEC investment blueprint, China has so far poured in US$19 billion in 22 projects. Nine of which have already been finished. Thirteen are underway.

The writer is special contributor to China Today and China Radio International (CRI). He also pitches articles in The Nation and The News on Foreign affairs, economy and human rights. He is a fellow of the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and is a recipient of China-friendly Netizen 2017 award. 

 

The writer is a senior journalist working for China Today and China Radio International. He also contributes to national mainstreams newspapers on economy, international relation and human rights. He is a fellow of ICFJ and is a recipient of China-friendly Netizen 2017 award.

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