Islamabad: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday rejected concerns that China was burdening Pakistan with debt through its investments in the USD 50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as he reaffirmed Beijing’s all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with Islamabad.
Wang’s remarks came as he met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed various issues of mutual interest, including the CPEC.
Wang, who arrived here on Friday on a three-day visit, held one-on-one and delegation-level talks with Qureshi, according to Pakistan Foreign Office.
He said that the CPEC helped create more than 70,000 jobs in Pakistan and contributed to the national growth.
“The CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy,” Wang said.
He said Pakistan’s 47 per cent debt was due to loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Wang further said that the (CPEC), which is a flagship project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, increased economic growth.
Wang’s remarks came after some analysts warned of the Chinese debt trap.
“We have decided to strive for a greater balance in two-way trade. China will earmark amounts of subsidiaries to encourage imports from Pakistan and will send more tread coalition teams to Pakistan. We will also broaden the market access to Pakistan’s competitive agricultural products,” he said.
Wang said that the two sides decided to complete negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the end of this year and China would help in developing a local manufacturing center in Pakistan.
Qureshi said that Pakistan was committed to the CPEC which is a “proof of how seamless the belt and road initiative can become with the help of all stakeholders.”
He said Wang extended an invitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan to visit an expo in China in November as a guest of honour.
Chinese President Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang were also invited to visit Pakistan, he said.
The Foreign Office said in a statement that following one-on-one meeting, the two leaders held an in-depth exchange of views on the entire gamut of bilateral relationship including economic cooperation, the CPEC, defence cooperation and cultural and educational cooperation.
Wang, who is also the Chinese State Councilor, congratulated Qureshi on his appointment as the foreign minister.
While reaffirming the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” between the two countries, Wang underlined that Pakistan will always be a priority for China in its Foreign Policy.
“The State Councilor reiterated that Pakistan was China’s ‘Iron brother’ and the bilateral partnership served as an anchor for regional peace and stability. China will work with Pakistan to prioritize CPEC projects so as to benefit all regions of Pakistan,” the Foreign Office said.
Qureshi reciprocated the sentiments of the State Councilor and reaffirmed the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries. He underlined that regardless of political changes, the bilateral relationship will remained as strong as ever.
“The Foreign Minister highlighted the significance of the CPEC for the socio-economic development of Pakistan and stressed that it will always remain a national priority for Pakistan,” it said.
During the meeting, the regional situation also came under discussion.
Wang Yi also met the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Matters related to regional security and bilateral cooperation were discussed.
“Chinese Foreign Minister said that Pakistan-China relationship is based on convergence of views and mutual respect,” The Pakistan Army said in a statement.
“Appreciating professionalism of Pakistan Army, Wang said that world should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and stability. He appreciated security provided to the CPEC and said that China believes in inclusive prosperity,” it said.
Bajwa thanked China for its continued support to Pakistan.
Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan Yao Jing was part of the delegation.
In addition to meeting his Pakistani counterpart, Wang will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, outgoing president Mamnoon Hussain, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa. He is also likely to meet President-elect Arif Alvi.