ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would tell the Chinese leadership that his government wants a “significant shift” in the infrastructure projects under the controversy-hit China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the country, according to a media report today.
The $60 billion CPEC is the flagship venture of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at enhancing Beijing’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects.
The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China’s resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
Prime Minister Khan is to embark on his first visit to China on November 3 during which he is expected to call on President Xi and meet his counterpart Li Keqiang.
“During his meetings in the friendly country, Khan would inform the Chinese leadership that his government wanted to bring about a significant shift in the projects falling under the purview of the CPEC,” the Dawn newspaper reported, quoting unnamed sources as saying.
Under the previous government there was an emphasis on infrastructure schemes, but the current government of Imran Khan wanted projects involving agriculture, job creation and foreign investment take centrestage, the report said.
Pakistan has already approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout to stabilise the economy.
The US has said that the huge Chinese debt was responsible for the economic challenges in Pakistan, adding that it will review Islamabad’s bailout plea to the IMF from all angles, including the country’s debt position.
State department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the US thinks that part of the reason for Pakistan’s financial crisis is Chinese debt.
On the other hand, India has raised an objection with Beijing over the CPEC as it traversed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Cash-strapped Pakistan has already announced plans to cut $8.2 billion railway project between the Karachi and Peshawar the biggest under the CPEC by about $2 billion to reduce the debt burden.
The report also said that due to suspension of funding to CPEC’s infrastructure projects, the National Highway Authority’s road projects worth over Rs. 1 trillion have been adversely affected. Many projects in the energy sector have also been hit.
The affected projects include the 210km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob road, the 110km Khuzdar-Basima road and a 136km portion of the Karakoram Highway.