ISLAMABAD: The controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project cannot progress without Indian cooperation, Pakistan said on Thursday. Stressing the need for strengthening regional cooperation, Islamabad added that India holds the key to peace in South Asia.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, Pakistan Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said, “The CPEC would bring prosperity to the region, including China and Pakistan,” reported Pakistani Daily Dawn.
The minister's comments came nearly two weeks after Iran invited Pakistan to become a part of the Chabahar project. The invite was aimed at pressuring Pakistan's policy making apparatus to be part of a corridor that undercuts its geographical advantage.
Critising India for alleged “short-sighted approach”, Iqbal said, “CPEC is purely an economic development project that would bring prosperity. India should get benefit from the project rather than pursuing unnecessary criticism.”
“The CPEC would bring prosperity to the region, including China and Pakistan,” he added.
“Transport corridors help connect the countries and play a pivotal role in economic integration, trade development and regional connectivity across the globe,” he said.
India is opposed to CPEC as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
CPEC is a crucial part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Repeated invitations from China and Pakistan to other countries in the neighbourhood to join CPEC have so far not received an enthusiastic response. In 2017, China even reached out to India to ensure smooth sailing for the project.
Earlier in March, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during a three-day visit to Pakistan, made a move to placate Pakistan's deep misgivings over India's long-standing involvement in the Chabahar Port project.
The Chabahar Port has given India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. These were regions where it had become unviable for India to interact with since most connectivity options ran through Pakistan, with whom India has perpetually strained relations. In November 2017, India successfully delivered an aid shipment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port.
However there are an increasing number of strains on CPEC. These range from protests over Chinese workers being used instead of locals, to rising voices from politicians about the high non-financial costs of CPEC, to questions over whether Chinese companies are operating illegally in Pakistan, to unhappiness over unfavourable terms on some of the infrastructure projects, and repeated attacks on Chinese workers.