China and Pakistan vow to protect CPEC from 'detractors and adversaries'

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Islamabad/Beijing: Pakistan and China on Friday vowed to protect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from its "detractors and adversaries", as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang and assured Beijing of providing complete security to Chinese personnel working on the USD 65 billion project.

Sharif is currently on a visit to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping, seeking to upgrade cooperation under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative.

In a statement, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Office said during the meeting, the two sides discussed the significance of Gwadar as an important pillar of the CPEC and agreed to expedite the timely completion of all related infrastructure projects to transform Gwadar in Balochistan province into a regional economic hub.

"They also expressed their firm commitment to protect CPEC from its detractors and adversaries and to upgrade CPEC in the form of enhanced cooperation," the statement said.

The two leaders reaffirmed unwavering support for each other on core issues and expressed continued commitment and support for the high-quality development of the CPEC, Geo News reported.

They also emphasised the timely completion of all ongoing projects with a special focus on industrial development, agriculture modernisation, Science & Technology and the development of Special Economic Zones for mutually beneficial and socio-economic development of Pakistan.

Sharif also reaffirmed Pakistan's unflinching resolve to ensure the safety and security of Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan.

Chinese investment and financial support since 2013 have been key for the South Asian nation's struggling economy, including the rolling over of loans so that Islamabad can meet external financing needs at a time when foreign reserves are critically low.

China has also invested billions in various power projects and road networks in Pakistan under the USD 65 billion CPEC plan, but the implementation of various projects has slowed in recent months.

The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments across the world.

The recurring attacks on the Chinese personnel working on the CPEC projects by militant groups in Pakistan have become a major concern for China.

In March, five Chinese and one Pakistani nationals were killed in a terrorist attack on their vehicle of the Dasu Hydropower Project undertaken by a Chinese company in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

During the talks, the two leaders discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and discussed regional and global developments of mutual interest.

They noted that the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership was characterised by mutual trust, shared principles and strategic convergence.

Premier Li congratulated Prime Minister Sharif on Pakistan's election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The two sides agreed to maintain high-level exchanges including strengthening institutional linkages at all tiers and in all spheres of bilateral cooperation.

Pakistan and China will also continue to consult closely on issues of regional and global significance and multilateral fora, especially during the two-year tenure of Pakistan as a non-member of the UNSC.

The delegation-level talks were followed by an MoU signing ceremony. Both signed 23 MoUs and agreements deepening cooperation in transport infrastructure, industry, energy, agriculture, media, health, water, socio-economic development and others of mutual interest.