PESHAWAR: Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has brushed aside the perception that work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has slowed down, saying that progress on the project was very much on schedule.
He was talking to media persons during the two-day international conference on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Tran-Regional Integration organised by the Area Study Centre, Russia, China and Central Asia, University of Peshawar on Wednesday.
“It’s not true. CPEC is actually a long-term project. There is no specification of speed on the project. Its progress is on schedule,” he said.
He was of the opinion that several stages were involved in the project. “In the previous stage, more attention had been focused on infrastructure development. With the new government in Pakistan, focus has been shifted to industrial cooperation, agriculture and social sector,” he said.
“Right now, we are working on community-based projects. The progress of the project cannot be judged by speed,” he argued.
Besides the Chinese ambassador, the inaugural session of the conference was addressed by Vice-Chancellor University of Peshawar, Prof Dr Mohammad Asif Khan and Director Area Study Centre, Prof Dr Shabir Ahmad Khan. Diplomats from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Iran also spoke at the conference.
The Chinese envoy welcomed the decision by the Pakistan government to keep open the Torkham border for 24 hours to improve trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Torkham border has historical importance. It has remained a trade route between Central Asia and South Asia,” he added.
He lauded the efforts made by the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to make the border more functional and feasible to facilitate trade and people-to-people contacts.
The Chinese envoy reiterated the resolve made by the Chinese foreign minister together with his Pakistani counterpart during his recent visit to Pakistan that the three countries should build a highway between Peshawar and Kabul and extend it further to Central Asia. This would certainly boost trade, he said.
About Kashmir, the Chinese ambassador said that China’s position on the issue was clear as it is against the unilateral Indian decision to change the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We think the views of the international community, the UN charter, the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the bilateral treaty between India and Pakistan should have been honoured,” he maintained.
He expressed serious concern over the humanitarian situation in the Indian-occupied Kashmir and emphasised the resolution of the dispute through peaceful means and meaningful dialogue.
The ambassador also expressed his surprise and shock over the failure of talks between the US and Afghan Taliban and stressed the need for continuation of the peace process.
He said the two sides had been making peace efforts since long and everyone had pinned hopes on the process. “Anyhow the process should be carried forward,” he said.
The Area Study Centre also inked memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan State University, Euro-Asian National University and CPEC Centre of Excellence, Islamabad for promotion of academic and research.
Other speakers on the occasion termed the BRI as ‘spinal cord’ and buckle of the belt, which would ensure regional connectivity.
Prof Dr Shabbir Ahmad Khan called upon key stakeholders to participate fully in the project.Prof Dr Muhammad Asif Khan also spoke on the occasion.
(This news/article originally appeared in The News on September 12th, 2019)