China is planning to extend its controversial CPEC project to regional countries, including Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian today said that China is having discussions with third parties, including Afghanistan, on the extension of CPEC. The two sides are having consultations through diplomatic channels.
India has repeatedly registered its protests over CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying it is in violation of its sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) – Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan. Disregarding India’s protests and sovereignty concerns, China has been defending the USD 60 billion CPEC project, saying it is an economic project not aimed at any third country. Experts said, China has been claiming its sovereignty at so many places including South China Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Strait etc. but it very conveniently ignores India’s sovereignty concerns.
At a Press briefing on Monday the Chinese spokesperson said that CPEC is an economic initiative with objectives of enhancing regional connectivity and achieving common development. Responding to a question by Prasar Bharati on how China sees regional prosperity being furthered by the CPEC in view of India’s position that it passes through Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan, he said, it is not about territorial disputes and does not affect our principled position on the issue of Kashmir. He added, the CPEC is an economic initiative that targets no third country. We notice that Afghanistan imports and exports goods through Gwadar and Karachi ports. High speed highways are also being extended to Afghanistan”, Mr. Zhao added.
The massive infrastructure project connects China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province which has raised concerns of huge Chinese debt on Pakistan’s fledgling economy, though China has recently played down the debt concerns. Experts said that as Pakistan is unable to pay back the loans, CPEC debt may be written off for unspecified favors. Pakistan has recently availed G-20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative. As per reports, Pakistan recently took USD 1 billion commercial loan from China to repay a soft loan to Saudi Arabia.
Leaders of China and Pakistan have praised the progress of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in recent days as the two close allies celebrated the establishment of 70 years of their diplomatic relations. In a message to his Pakistani counterpart Arif Alvi on Friday on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Pakistan diplomatic relations, President Xi Jinping said the CPEC has achieved remarkable results. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a high-level meeting in Islamabad that the CPEC will bring economic progress not only to Pakistan but the entire region.