Pakistan Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque has said that following the uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected the entire global economy, speculation as to whether CPEC, a key project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), will continue according to schedule has become louder.
"However, despite this speculation and the global pandemic, CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) projects will march forward based on the consensus reached between the leadership of the two countries," he told the Global Times in an interview.
The ambassador's comments came after some Indian media reported that China is backing away from its initial financial commitments to Pakistan under CPEC, citing data of Boston University researchers in the United States.
However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied these groundless reports, saying as an important pilot project of the BRI, CPEC had maintained a positive momentum since its inception in 2013.
According to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, the CPEC projects are being advanced as the two sides held the second meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group on International Cooperation and Coordination. The ambassador, who also attended the meeting, informed that during the meeting, the two countries reaffirmed that the CPEC was an open and inclusive initiative that welcomed third party participation.
"We therefore invite third parties to join us in this 'transformational project', which is bringing a new hope of economic prosperity to the people of Pakistan and the broader region," he added.
About progress amid the pandemic, Ambassador Haque said 19 projects under CPEC had been completed and 28 were under implementation.
Citing the Lahore Orange Line Metro project, he said the project, the first mass-transit project of its kind in Pakistan which was launched in October, would provide efficient and affordable transport services to the 10 million residents of Lahore.
Another important project like the Matiari-Lahore transmission line, he said, was set to be put into operation early next year. Some of the key projects in Gwadar like Eastbay Expressway, Gwadar International Airport, Desalination Plant and Power Plant were also moving ahead smoothly.
"COVID-19 pandemic has posed a severe threat to many businesses," Ambassador Haque said, adding amid the extraordinary times of disrupted international travel and supply lines, there was initially some slowdown in the work on CPEC projects.