CPEC project that is aiming at development and socio-economic progress, not only in Pakistan, but the entire region and beyond; Asim Iftikhar

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Spokesperson on Friday,
4 November, 2022

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Assalam-o-Alaikum, ladies and gentlemen I welcome you to this briefing.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif undertook official visit to the People’s Republic of China from 1-2 November. This was the Prime Minister Sharif’s first bilateral visit after assuming office and he was also one of the first leaders visiting China after the historic 20th National Congress of the CPC. During the visit, he held a number of meetings including with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress among others. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also accompanied during the meetings. The Foreign Minister also had a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The two sides held an in-depth exchange of views on a number of bilateral issues as well as on regional situation and international political landscape. Both sides reiterated mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests.
The two sides agreed on the importance of China-Pakistan All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership amidst the emerging global challenges. The leaders reaffirmed that close strategic ties and profound friendship between China and Pakistan was time-tested and resilient.
During his meeting with President Xi, Prime Minister Sharif congratulated him on his re-election as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). He also invited President Xi to visit Pakistan which he graciously accepted.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also briefed the Chinese leadership on post-flood relief and rehabilitation efforts. The Chinese side expressed its resolve to stand by Pakistan in these difficult times and to continue offering assistance to Pakistan for rehabilitation of the affected areas.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to high quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and highlighted the salience of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for Pakistan’s economic and social development. Various projects under CPEC including ML-1, Karachi Circular Railway, projects of the Gawadar port and free zone, cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, IT and socio-economic development were also discussed.
The Prime Minister also addressed a China-Pakistan Business Forum that was attended by more than 500 Chinese entrepreneurs. Separate meetings were also held with heads of key Chinese state owned and private enterprises.
Major outcomes of the visit are as follows:
• Pakistan and China agreed to continue to support each other on their core issues. Chinese leadership reiterated its principled support on Kashmir.
• There was complete consensus to accelerate high quality development of CPEC as flagship project of BRI. It was also agreed to fast-track implementation of ML-I and Karachi Circular Railway projects.
• China supported Pakistan’s initiative for developing solar energy potential and would encourage its companies to invest in solar energy projects in Pakistan.
• On bilateral trade, it was agreed to expand Pakistan’s exports, especially food and agro products. Both sides agreed to conduct a joint study for sharing of experience and expertise for enhancing bilateral trade.
• China agreed to provide an additional emergency relief package of RMB 500 million to help in post flood reconstruction and developing resilient infrastructure to mitigate future disasters.
• To support Pakistan’s agricultural production especially due to damage to our crops after floods, China would also provide 300,000 MT urea to Pakistan on G2G basis.
• Pakistan was also declared as the first priority partner country under GDI. An MOU was signed in this respect for cooperation and new projects in areas of health, education, agriculture and climate change.
• During the visit, several MoUs were concluded to expand cooperation in finance, E-commerce, digital economy, GDI and culture.
You would have also seen the comprehensive joint statement from the visit.
On 1st November, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari represented Pakistan at the SCO Council of Heads of Government (SCO-CHG) meeting held in Beijing in a virtual format.
The CHG meeting deliberated upon vital regional and global issues of interest, adopted a Joint Communiqué and approved the SCO’s budget for 2023. It also discussed a comprehensive matrix for productive cooperation in trade and economy, transportation and connectivity, science & technology, climate change, culture, energy and tourism.
In his address, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari highlighted the importance of enhancing economic and trade cooperation between SCO Member States and underscored that building greater connectivity across SCO region would help unlock the political and economic potential of intra-SCO cooperation. The Foreign Minister also stressed on the importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which supplements SCO’s vision of shared prosperity through regional connectivity and integration.
Reflecting on the importance of achieving lasting peace and security in the region for economic development, the Foreign Minister stressed the need to address the scourge of terrorism in all its manifestations, including state terrorism. He also underlined the importance of sustained and practical engagement with Afghanistan in order to help the Afghan people overcome the humanitarian and economic crises afflicting their country.
As you would have seen, a meeting of the Joint Working Group of the Political & Security Pillar of the Saudi Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC) was held in Islamabad on yesterday. The meeting was co-chaired by Acting Foreign Secretary, Jauhar Saleem, and Ambassador Dr. Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati, Deputy Minister for Political Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the meeting, in-depth discussions were held on wide- ranging topics of mutual interest and the two sides resolved to further strengthen the longstanding bilateral cooperation in political and security domains.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You would have seen our categorical rejection of India’s baseless propaganda directed against Pakistan at the meeting of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) in Mumbai last week.
We have also strongly condemned the highly irresponsible, provocative and gratuitous remarks by the Indian Defence Minister at a public event on Kashmir Black Day in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).
We remain deeply concerned over the situation in IIOJK. Only during the month of October, the Indian occupation forces in their continued acts of state terrorism martyred 14 Kashmiris in fake encounters and illegal custody. Indian police, paramilitary personnel and notorious National Investigation Agency also arrested 47 people and destroyed a residential house during cordon and search operations and house raids in different areas of the occupied territory during the month.
Pakistan has consistently called upon the international community to shoulder its responsibility with regards to IIOJK. India must be held responsible for its nefarious scheme of altering the demography of IIOJK, as well as its unabated brutal repression of the innocent Kashmiris.
I would like to note that the Prime Minister would be participating in the COP-27 related Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh on 7-8 November. We will be sharing more details about that visit in due course.
Question: In the joint statement shared after Prime Minister’s recent visit to China, Pakistan side expressed its commitment to One China policy and support on issues of Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. Do you think that it can have an effect on Pak-US relations? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)

Answer: I don’t think so. These are Pakistan’s long-stated and long-held principled positions in support of China’s core issues. Pakistan has expressed its support for China all along and we will continue to do that. I don’t think it should impact any of our bilateral relations with other countries.

Question: My question is about CPEC, which is an important project between Pakistan and China. Earlier it has been reported that the projects under CPEC were facing delays. After Prime Minister’s recent two-day visit to China, can we expect expedition vis-a-vis completion of these projects? When will these projects be completed and bring benefit? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Answer: Well, you know, Pakistan is already benefiting from CPEC. CPEC has been there on ground for quite a while and it has contributed to rejuvenating Pakistan’s economic development. You’re aware of the first phase of CPEC that was focusing on energy shortfall and infrastructure projects. You’re aware of the second phase that was focusing on agriculture, industrialization and socio-economic development, and there is a renewed focus now again on some of the major infrastructure projects. CPEC is a flagship project of BRI. It is a project that is aiming at development and socio-economic progress, not only in Pakistan, but the entire region and beyond. And I think you would also note that this is a project for the long term. So there are many activities that have been concluded, there are others that are in the pipeline, and there will be projects in the future with mutual agreement and understanding.

Question: Recently, a Russian Senator has accused Pakistan of providing support to Ukraine regarding nuclear technology. What are your comments on this? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Daily Maddar)

Answer: Regarding this, we have already issued a statement, and you may like to refer to it. It is a very clear statement. We were actually surprised by such a baseless and unfounded statement. It has no rationale whatsoever and it is also inconsistent with the spirit of Pakistan-Russia relations. We have sought clarification from the Russian side and we are pursuing it here in Islamabad and in Moscow.

Question: ​Ministry of Foreign Affairs was involved in repatriation of the dead body of senior investigative journalists Arshad Sharif from Kenya to Pakistan. Would you like to share some updates? Is there any progress in the investigation of his murder in Kenya? Is Kenyan Government sharing information and cooperating with Pakistan Embassy in Kenya? Pakistani intelligence officials have also requested Kenyan Government to cooperate and share information. So, I would appreciate if you can share any progress on sharing of information between two countries on this high profile murder case. (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: As far as the question of cooperation is concerned, in principle that is the understanding between Pakistan and Kenya, that we have had and we will continue to have full cooperation and coordination from the Kenyan authorities on this matter. As for any details, I think it’s not appropriate for me to divulge on that, the two-member team has, at the moment completed its work at this stage. I think as per the terms of reference of this team, they are going to report to the Ministry of Interior, which is going to be the relevant governmental department to share any details.

Question: ​In his meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister, President Xi according to the Chinese readout says and I quote, “President Xi expressed concerns over the growing incidence of terror against Chinese nationals”. What has Pakistan done or conveyed to the Chinese side particularly with regard to the security of Chinese nationals?

Secondly, with regards to the joint statement, the fact that it skips the mention of China opposing any unilateral actions vis-à-vis Kashmir, something which we saw in the previous joint statement that was issued on 6th February. Is this a departure from Chinese position or is this a sign of weakness on the part of the Pakistani side of diplomacy? (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)

Answer: I think, on your first observation, regarding the safety and security of Chinese personnel, programs and projects, this has been a matter that has been accorded the highest level of priority by the Government of Pakistan and we continue to have discussions with our Chinese friends on this. At the highest levels the assurances have been communicated to the Chinese leadership regarding Pakistan’s commitment to ensure the safety and security and to take all necessary measures in that regard.

With regard to your other observation, I think, we need to have a look at the recent statement and also the previous statements. I don’t see any reason to assume that there is any change in position, either from Pakistan or China, with regard to our respective core issues. I think China’s position on Jammu and Kashmir has been consistent and always very clearly articulated including in this joint statement, and also on support for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So I can reassure you that there is no shortcoming of any kind in the joint statement.

Question: There was an incident in Houston where a Pakistani businessman Tahir Javed misbehaved with Pakistani Consul General and also threatened him. Is Foreign Office aware of such an incident? If yes, what inquiry is being conducted about it? (Zulqarnain Haider, ARY News) ​

Answer: I have to check about details of this incident and will get back to you.

Question: IMF has once again put forth its demand to do more regarding increase in taxes and levy. What are your views on this? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)

Answer: I don’t know where does it come from? Is it verified or something? In any case, this relates to our colleagues in the Ministry of Finance.

Question: Students and families of overseas Pakistanis are facing problems for getting appointments in the Embassy of Italy and Germany? The students have submitted their fees and they could not get appointments. They are not even responding to emails for the last 8 months? Can you share any update on this? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)

Answer: Well, the problems with regard to visas that are faced by Pakistanis, we continue to raise this with the relevant diplomatic missions. I think this is the job and responsibility of diplomatic missions. This is what we do when we are abroad, to facilitate the applicants for various visa categories and we expect the same from the diplomatic corps stationed in Pakistan. I think our job is to facilitate these things.
Thank you.