Multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan project will benefit entire region, Pakistani envoy says

Assurances counter Indian analyst’s suggestion that only Islamabad’s elite will benefit from China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 10:58am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 5:22pm

A multibillion-dollar infrastructure programme to link China and Pakistan will benefit the whole region and not drive a bigger wedge between Islamabad and New Delhi, according to Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khalid.

Khalid defended the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a major component of China’s ambitious plans to revive trade along the Silk Road, on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Innovation and Development Forum in Hong Kong on Friday.

“It’s a project [for the] common good of people,” he said.

The corridor encompasses US$62 billion in strategic infrastructure and energy projects across Pakistan, and is a major element in China’s “Belt and Road” international trade initiative.

Just who will the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor really benefit?

As part of the programme, China has pledged to build coal and hydroelectric power plants, and construct an oil pipeline between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and Kashgar in China’s far west.

Khalid’s comments came after Rajiv Kumar, vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India, a think tank affiliated with the Indian government, said the corridor could only benefit the Pakistani elite and Islamabad would use its ties with Beijing to counter New Delhi’s influence.

“Pakistani rulers have tied themselves with China in such a way that is not going to be good for the people of Pakistan. Pakistani people are not very close to and have no traditional or cultural relationship with China,” The Economic Times quoted Kumar as saying.

“[The corridor] is therefore a decision by a small elite for their own benefit as has been the case always. The driving force is not their love for China, but a smart design to counter India and amplify geostrategic power.”

India has been troubled by the megaproject because it runs through contested territory in Kashmir that India claims as its own.

The investment has also stoked concerns about Beijing’s growing influence in Pakistan and the corridor’s potential to help the nation – a key China ally – act as a counterweight to India.

Why India is cool towards China’s Belt and Road

In addition, there are fears that Beijing will use the strategic projects such as Gwadar Port for its own geopolitical ambitions.

But Khalid said the project had not met any problems from India.

“I do not see any difficulty because this is not the first time that work has been going on in this area,” he said. “If we had differences, issues, disputes, they ought to be addressed in a meaningful manner, across the table via negotiations.”