ISLAMABAD -  Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has said Pakistan appreciates the desire of regional countries to be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In an interview on Sunday, he referred to the interest shown by Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the grand enterprise, and expressed the hope that this would further augment regional connectivity and cooperation.

The minister reiterated that the project was in the interest of the entire region.

He clarified that CPEC was aimed at bolstering trade and economic cooperation in the whole region and was not limited to China and Pakistan only.

About the reservations shown by different political parties over the CPEC route, Ahsan said CPEC was the most debated project in the parliament and all concerns raised by the parliamentarians had been addressed.

 “There is no secret about it,” he reiterated.

It is pertinent to mention here that Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omar Zakhilwal has expressed keen interest in becoming part of the CPEC, also assuring strong support for the multi-billion project.

In an interview, Zakhilwal said, “The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a great project that is equally relevant to Afghanistan like Pakistan, and anything that will be good for Pakistan will be good for the entire region.”

The diplomat remarked the Afghans were “thirsty for development” and desired to see their conflict-devastated homeland prosper.

He said, “I think CPEC is not limited to Pakistan, it is for the entire region, particularly Central Asia. CPEC is very much relevant to Afghanistan and it takes much interest in the project.”

Zakhilwal, also a former finance minister, added Afghanistan could recover from the devastation it had suffered during decades of war by joining the project.

“Investment in the project rose to more than $51.5 billion in September when China and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed to lend $8 billion for upgrading the main railway line from Karachi to Peshawar,” Ahsan said.