China responds to reports of hidden military designs behind CPEC

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China responds to reports of hidden military designs behind CPEC

ISLAMABAD - China has strongly refuted suggestions its multibillion-dollar economic corridor now under construction in Pakistan has “hidden” military designs as well.

Beijing has pledged to invest about $63 billion in Pakistan by 2030 to develop ports, highways, motorways, railways, airports, power plants and other infrastructure in the neighbouring country, traditionally a strong ally.

The Chinese have also expanded and operationalised the Pakistani deep water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, which is at the heart of the massive bilateral cooperation, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. The strategically located port is currently being operated by a Chinese state-run company.

“I want to make it very clear, Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, and with CPEC under it, it’s purely a commercial development project. We don’t have any kind of military or strategic design for that,” said Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Islamabad. He made the remarks in an exclusive interview with VOA.

Within five years of finalising and launching CPEC, Jing said 22 “early harvest” projects out of the 43 total projects under CPEC have been completed or are under construction, with a total investment of around $19 billion, the largest influx of foreign investment in Pakistan’s 70-year-old history. The projects have already brought 60,000 local jobs and effectively addressed the country’s once crippling energy crisis. Power plants built under the joint venture, officials say, will have added more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by June, leading to a surplus of power.

While speaking to VOA, the Chinese diplomat urged the United States and India to “come to the CPEC project” and “witness the progress on the ground” for themselves, saying it will enable them overcome misunderstandings vis-a-vis CPEC.

“There are some kind of doubts that maybe there are some things hidden in it. I think that when you have an objective lens to look at this project and to come to the ground to find this progress on the ground then you may have a better understanding of what we are doing here,” said Jing.

The Chinese envoy was responding to concerns expressed in Washington and New Delhi that Beijing could try to turn Gwadar into a military port in the future to try to dominate the Indian Ocean.