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CPEC is the No.1 priority project as far as the government of Pakistan, Pakistan's Ambassador

Updated: September 26, 2019 Source: Global Times
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The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and the 68th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan. The two countries have enjoyed "iron brother" ties. Global Times reporters Wang Bozun and Bai Yunyi (GT) sat for an interview with Pakistan's Ambassador to China Naghmana Hashmi (Hashmi) and talked about bilateral ties and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  

GT: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. How would you describe your understanding of China's development during the last 70 years?

Hashmi: I belong to a generation of people who have actually grown up and witnessed the foundations of Pakistan's friendship with China being laid. So we have very carefully and closely watched the different phases that China has gone through.

In the last 70 years, we cannot but admire the strides that China has made and the development that China has seen. In every field of life, whether its economy, education, health, technology or trade, and more importantly, international politics, China has shown to the world that with the wisdom of its leadership, its sagacity long-term strategic planning, it can achieve anything.

So, in our opinion, it's a lesson that needs to be emulated. People need to understand and see how China has achieved this development and social cohesion and learn from it. So, in my opinion, China has made tremendous progress in the last 70 years.

GT: What do you think are the most prominent and impressive changes that China has seen during the past 70 years? You have earlier worked in China, how do you compare your current experience with the past?

Hashmi: I remember decades ago, people wore uniforms, and there were few cars on the streets and all the buildings were low and dark.

But now, when you look at China, I think it is better than any other big metropolitan city that I have seen. As you travel through China, whether it's Beijing, Shanghai, or other parts of China, these are almost like futuristic cities. You would see huge buildings. You would see people happy.

One thing that really strikes me is that 40 years ago, you could not see so many Chinese people travel abroad. But now when you go to any tourist place or any city in the world, whether it's in Europe, North America or South America, you would predominantly see Chinese people.

So I think that a couple of things which China has achieved in the past 70 years are economic development, industrial development, architecture development and development in science and education.

I think it has never happened in the history of humanity that in a very short span of time, China has been able to lift 700 million people out of poverty. This is a feat that has not been accomplished by any other nation in the world.

GT: How do you value bilateral ties between the two countries in the past 68 years?

Hashmi: When we were growing up, a phrase was very popular. They used to say that Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest ocean. But generally people could not really understand what it meant. But as I grew up and joined the foreign service of Pakistan, I realized that there is no other bilateral relationship, nowhere in the world, which can be compared to the Pakistan-China relationship.

It is a relationship that is based on mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual vision for peace and development in the region.

It is not a relationship based on interests. Time has shown that Pakistan and China have stood by each other through good and bad times. We have supported each other, whether it is bilaterally or in the international arena. For example, Pakistan has throughout firmly supported the one-China principle. And similarly, China has supported us in all our difficult times.

One of the most shining examples of this friendship is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is one of the flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative. And the government and people of Pakistan are fully supporting it.

If you travel through Pakistan from north to south, you would see Chinese presence and Chinese footprints everywhere, which has actually helped the people of Pakistan.

Nowadays, as the world is undergoing tremendous changes, Pakistan-China relationship provides a strong element of stability, not only in the region, but also in the world.

President Xi Jinping very rightly described this relationship as a relationship between two iron brothers. For us, China is not just a friend but like a very dear family member.

GT: A recent report in the Wall Street Journal said only less than half of the $62 billion Chinese projects under CPEC have been operational. Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, it said, has quietly put on hold many of the remaining CPEC projects. What's your response?

Hashmi: There is an old English saying that Rome was not built in one day. These are mega-projects. And they cannot be completed in one or two days or even one or two years. It's a project that has to go from one phase to another phase.

We are now witnessing the completion of the first phase of CPEC, which includes infrastructure projects and energy projects wherein the energy projects alone were about $36 billion out of the whole package.

Most of the energy projects are either being completed or have already been completed. So it's a process that is going on.

The second phase will be the establishment of the special economic zones. Now we have already identified the various economic zones and the areas where they will be constructed. We have also identified the industries which will go into these economic zones.

These things do take time. The CPEC agreement was signed in 2013, so to say in six years only half of the money has been utilized is unfair, because it has to be implemented in phases.

For example, if you want to build economic zones, now you can't build it if the road has not been built, if the energy plant has not been put in place.

And you also mentioned about Prime Minister Imran Khan putting it on hold. I think nothing could be more wrong than this impression.

Because the government of Pakistan, irrespective of which political party is in power, has full consensus on our relationship with China and on the CPEC project.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has on several occasions stated that the CPEC is the No.1 priority project as far as the government of Pakistan is concerned and our leadership has repeatedly said that we will do everything to ensure that it is completed on time.

So this propaganda against CPEC is totally unfounded. And I think these kinds of rumors are purposely fed to the media by people who do not want to see CPEC being completed.

Editor: 王若寒