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Islamabad: Doubts have been raised over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) gaining momentum henceforth, The Singapore Post reported.

The development comes as China does not trust Pakistan “completely” while Islamabad views China as its ‘all-weather ally,’ as per the report.

As per the report, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent visit to China has been unable to reignite the ties between the two nations. The Singapore Post report said, “revitalization of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is unlikely to be on the expected lines.” The terrorist attacks on Chinese nationals have angered leaders of China which have called on Pakistan’s leadership to provide security to its citizens.

As per the report, the Chinese nationals working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are provided bulletproof cars for all outdoor travel. CPEC is important for Pakistan as it has been able to generate electric power and avoid 16-hour-long daily load shedding.

Thousands of kilometres of highways have been developed and far-flung areas have been connected, as per the report. Pakistan was expected to build nine Special Economic Zones. However, it did not happen and the Chinese industries started shifting to nations, where they could build and function seamlessly.

Apart from the delay in making special economic zones, the COVID-19 pandemic, political and policy stability and non-ease of doing business were responsible for CPEC’s slowdown.

Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary, Former foreign secretary of Pakistan, expressed serious concern over CPEC’s momentum, The Singapore Post cited Dawn report. According to him, the key point is whether CPEC can regain the momentum it had managed to gain in the first few years after its launch in 2015.

Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Pakistan has been able to boost CPEC’s ongoing projects. In the joint statement after Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to China, the two nations reaffirmed an “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.” China and Pakistan also agreed to “continue the momentum of CPEC’s high-quality development.”

Citing Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary’s statement, the report said that there is doubt on why there was no announcement to start any new projects, including the multibillion-dollar ML-1 railway line project. In the joint statement, the leaders “appreciated” the project and called for its earliest implementation.

Both sides agreed to “speed up progress” on Gwadar port and Khunjerab border port. However, no specific projects were announced. It is believed that China might be waiting for clarity regarding the new government.

The report argued that the leaders have given guidance and work needs to be done at the working level. Another factor is Beijing’s serious concern for the safety of its citizens, projects and institutions in Pakistan. The efforts to revitalise CPEC could run aground until the concerns of China are not addressed adequately.

According to the report, China had agreed to Islamabad’s decision to scrap China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) authority in August. The scrapping of the CPEC authority indicates resentment and tough times ahead for the Belt and Road Initiative elsewhere in the world.

People in Baluchistan have expressed opposition to CPEC-related projects. The local residents are angry with the Gwadar Port, and the lack of economic growth as well as job opportunities. Following Karachi’s attack on Chinese nationals in May, Beijing is annoyed about the attacks on its projects and personnel.

As per The Singapore Post report, China is not confident about the security assurances despite Pakistan deploying over 15,000 military personnel to protect the CPEC projects. The people of Pakistan are also not happy with CPEC due to the high cost of loans and the debt trap.

An Asian Development Bank report in February recommended immediate structural reforms in order to release the potential of the private sector along the CPEC pathway since the CPEC itself was not enough to improve Pakistan’s economy.

The CPEC Authority was formed in 2019 to expedite different projects under the CPEC. However, it has been gripped by controversies, including corruption allegations and the wastage of resources.

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