Islamabad, Oct 3 : Pakistan has announced that Saudi Arabia will not be made part of the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework and the kingdom’s proposed investments would fall under a separate bilateral arrangement, days after Islamabad said Riyadh will be the third “strategic partner” of the project.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar on Tuesday said that there was no decision to bring a third country, like Saudi Arabia, under the framework of the CPEC.
The CPEC envisages linking China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port. The project — a key component of Beijing’s Belt and Road programme — is opposed by India as its planned route goes through the disputed Kashmir region. Many countries including India suspect the project is China’s geostrategic ploy.
Bakhtiar said there could be many offshoots of the CPEC where third countries could be involved in a trilateral arrangement for infrastructure development, Dawn online reported.
“Saudi Arabia is not to become a collateral strategic partner in the CPEC. This impression is not true,” he said, adding that third country participation in the CPEC was not limited to Saudi Arabia but other countries could also become part of the business and investment ventures arising out of the project.
“The framework between China and Pakistan is bilateral and Saudi Arabia is not entering that framework as a third-party investor, rather the base of CPEC will be broadened and its pace will be expedited,” he said.
Bakhtiar was responding to questions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia becoming part of the Joint Working Groups or Joint Coordination Committee on the CPEC.
He expressed ignorance when asked how the cost of the Main Railway Line (ML-I) had been reduced from $8.2 billion to $6.2 billion as claimed by Railway Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed.
“I have noticed this today that Sheikh Rashid is making some efforts (to reduce cost) but not to my knowledge. Nothing has come in front of me to suggest that the cost has come down.”
In response to a question, Bakhtiar said the CPEC portfolio currently stood at about $50 billion, of which about $6 billion was government-to-government loan and remaining in Independent Power Producers mode mostly in the energy sector. About $29 billion worth of projects were currently in progress.
The Planning Minister said that “the CPEC had far bigger potential than $50 billion and would keep expanding with time as new projects come up but the previous government treated and played it like a T20 match instead of a five-day test series and focused mostly on projects which could be completed during its tenure”.