China slows down on ‘Belt and Road’ initiative in Pak: Report

Karachi (NVI): Pakistan and China sat down recently for talks on Beijing’s major Belt and Road initiative known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but the latter side showed a distinct lack of enthusiasm toward pumping more money into new projects, a media report said.

According to a Nikkei Asian Review report, the two countries held the sixth round of meetings of the Joint Cooperation Committee, the apex body of CPEC, from November 4 to 6, and it concluded without a major breakthrough on new projects.

The main development in the committee was the inauguration of Multan-Sukkur Motorway on eastern alignment of the corridor. Pakistan had invited China to expand the scope of CPEC by investing in the oil and gas sector, and offered to sell the loss-making Pakistan Steel Mills to China. However, China did not make any financial commitment in response to these offers.

The Pakistan government had expected China to add a number of new projects in CPEC in this round of meetings of the joint committee. This indicates that China’s is taking a cautious approach toward the corridor projects. Experts said China has apparently adopted a policy of completing the existing projects in the corridor before making additional financial commitments, report added.

Malik Siraj Akbar, a Washington, D.C., based analyst, said China has invested substantially in Pakistan, but it feels Islamabad does not have the capability and the efficient government machinery to effectively complete various projects. “[China] has decided to slow down to make sure all the ongoing [CPEC] projects are completed on time without throwing more money toward Pakistan,” the report said.

Experts consider these to be desperate moves to assure Beijing that Pakistan is still committed to corridor-related projects. “Through these steps, Pakistan wanted to tell the Chinese that we might be slow in overcoming our shortcomings but we are constantly trying to enhance our capacity to complete CPEC projects on time,” Akbar said.

-sb