Beijing: China has claimed "massive support from all sectors in Pakistan" for the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project as it hosts a high-level conference on Thursday, days after a Pakistani army general invited India to be a part of the ambitious venture.
China is also expected to announce a $1 billion soft loan at the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of the CPEC in which Pakistan's minister for planning, development and reforms Ahsan Iqbal and chief ministers of all the Pakistan provinces are expected to participate, report on the official website of the CPEC said.
The JCC which includes chief ministers of Pakistani provinces is expected to discuss steps to ensure smooth construction of the CPEC which is a prestigious project for
President Xi Jinping.
Lt Gen Amir Riaz, commander of Pakistan's Southern Command had said that India should "shun enmity" with Pakistan and "join the CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits".
Subsequently, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also wondered about India's reaction to the Pakistani general's remarks. "I wonder what is India's take on this whether this is a good sign from Pakistan," Hua said reacting to Riaz's remarks, adding that China has an open mind on India's participation.
"Surprise aside (over the general's call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor," said an article in state-run Global Times.
Ahead of the conference, Pakistani media reported that Islamabad is likely to secure a $1 billion soft loan for three road projects under the CPEC. Reports quoted Ashraf Zaman, spokesman for Pakistan's National Highway Authority (NHA) as saying the roads are on the western route of CPEC, a mega network of roads, rail links, power plants and other infrastructure connecting western China's Xinjiang province to Pakistan's southern port of Gwadar.
Zaman said a deal was reached with the Chinese to finance the three additional roads in November. Asked about the loan and the meeting, Hua told a media briefing that she has no information on the loan and the meeting.
At the same time she said the "CPEC has drawn massive support from all sectors in Pakistan. We would like to work with the Pakistani side to press ahead with the development of the CPEC," she said. Her comments followed reports in the Pakistani and Chinese media about criticism within Pakistan over the project on which India has also raised objections as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
"Regarding the CPEC, we have stated our position on many occasions. The CPEC is a cooperation framework set up by the two countries for the future development of China-Pakistan relations as part of the Belt and Road Initiative," Hua said adding "It is not only beneficial to the economic and social development of China and Pakistan but also conducive to regional connectivity and economic and trade cooperation".
"Three years on, CPEC, described by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a 'game changer' for the entire region, has entered into full implementation in 2016 and remarkable progresses have been achieved," a commentary by state-run Xinhua news agency said.
At the same time, an article in state-run Global Times criticised sections of Pakistani media for taking a critical view of the project. Written by a research fellow in the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) the article said "there is no denying the fact that there has been criticism of CPEC in Pakistan. There has been criticism of the government of Pakistan, mainly of the ruling party, over the percentage of shared routes of CPEC in Pakistan," the article said.
"Every province wants to get the most out of it. It is like fighting over a cake before eating it," it said.
Updated Date: Dec 28, 2016 21:02:34 IST