Written By: Ummar Shahzad
6th JCC Meeting Held in Beijing
“The economic corridor project would serve as a game-changer for the region and usher a new era of prosperity”.
(President Mamnoon Hussain)
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has kicked off with dozens of projects under implementation in all regions of the country. CPEC is a flagship project of Chinese broader vision of One Belt, One Road (OBOR). It has been rightly termed as “Economic Game and Fate Changer”. It will not only bring prosperity to Pakistan and China but also benefit the region at large. CPEC will open doors to immense economic opportunities for the people of South Asia and connect China to markets in Asia, Europe and beyond. The CPEC land route upto Gwadar will shorten the existing circuitous sea route of almost 16,000 kms to about 3,000 kms, greatly reducing the travelling time and economic cost. Notwithstanding the controversies being aired against CPEC, successful realization of CPEC will result in meeting the energy shortfalls, in addition to building the development and communication infrastructure.
Pursuant to the consensus reached by the leadership on promoting and developing CPEC, 6th meeting of Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) held in Beijing that reviewed the progress made so far and discussed the long term plan of CPEC. Security was also kept on agenda and relevant input was sought over the practical steps taken for the security of Chinese personnel involved in the development work. Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform (PDR), Mr. Ahsan Iqbal presided the JCC meeting from Pakistan’s side, while Mr. Wang Xiaotao, the Vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), chaired on behalf of the Chinese government.
The agenda points of the meeting were:
• Progress review including long term planning for energy, infrastructure and Gwadar Port projects.
• Development of crucial short term projects for improvement of road and rail infrastructure, rehabilitation work and rail-based mass transit systems.
• Industrial cooperation and development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
• Disaster prevention and mitigation measures.
• CPEC security.
Progress Review of CPEC
The formal session began with progress review of ongoing CPEC projects in which main focus was laid on timely completion of Early Harvest Projects (EHPs). Minister PDR apprised the progress achieved after the 5th JCC meeting and highlighted impediments in fast track development work. Both sides concurred that, the overall progress of CPEC is satisfactory. Both sides focused on timely completion of EHPs, which would essentially help in maximizing benefits for both countries. Sector wise progress review is:
12 CPEC energy projects including Sahiwal and Port Qasim coal fired power plants and others under construction are nearing completion. A total of 8130 MW energy will reach national grid with investments of over $16 billion by 2018. JCC agreed that China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company (CET), which is a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation, will sponsor Matiari-Lahore and Matiari-Faisalabad transmission lines projects. JCC also agreed to form a mechanism on the development of hydro projects along the Indus River including Bhasha Hydropower Project.
Satisfaction was shown on two mega infrastructure projects i.e., Havelian-Thakot section of Karakorum Highway (KKH) and Multan Sukkur Section of Peshawar-Karachi Motorway. Three short term projects including, Thakot-Raikot road (136 kms), Khuzdar-Basima road (110 kms) and upgradation of Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob road (210 kms) also came under discussion, where feasibilities have been completed and the loan requests for investment have been given to Chinese. The expansion and upgradation of Main Railway Line (ML1) from Peshawar to Karachi was declared as strategic component of CPEC. It was agreed that work on ML1 will be implemented on fast track for the realization of benefits to both strategic partners. In infrastructure, four mass transit lines including Orange Line have been approved on the proposal of provinces: The details are:
•Orange Line (formally announced as part of CPEC).
•Karachi Circular Railway.
•Greater Peshawar Region Mass Transit System.
•Quetta Mass Transit System.
Development Work at Gwadar Port
Gwadar Smart City Master Plan and related projects were discussed in depth. It was agreed that, early completion of Gwadar International Airport, Free Zone and social sector projects will bring a message of hope and much needed support from the local community. Construction of additional multipurpose berths at Gwadar Port including development of breakwater and dredging work is planned to commence during late 2017.
Substantial focus was laid on China-Pakistan industrial cooperation and a number of agreements were signed in fields of energy, steel and industrial parks. Chairman Pakistan’s Board of Investment (BOI), Mr. Miftah Ismail led conversations over industrial cooperation and proposed development of one project in each province, federal capital, FATA, AJ&K and Gilgit-Baltistan. BOI will host investors from Chinese side in early January-February to dwell upon the locations of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation
JCC agreed on Early Warning System and strengthening of emergency response for the all CPEC projects.
A special session was arranged for discussing security matters during JCC. Commander Special Security Division (SSD), Major General Abid Rafique apprised the forum about comprehensive security mechanism and measures taken by law enforcement agencies of Pakistan to ensure foolproof security. He apprised the house that Pakistan Army’s SSD will lead and articulate the security of CPEC. The forum was briefed about the speedy raising and operationalization of SSD and successful completion of security undertaking of First Trade Convoy from Khunjerab to Gwadar and back. It was highlighted that the Chinese need to follow security advisories inside Pakistan to ensure security. The Chinese were found eager to learn about security and were satisfied with the overall security arrangements.
The 6th JCC meeting was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality, friendship and mutual understanding for achieving the shared vision of development of CPEC. Practical steps have to be taken for timely completion of EHPs, which would help build confidence and forestall all anti-CPEC developments for both Pakistan and China. Besides that, sharing of long term plans with all the stakeholders is a healthy sign, which has been time and again stressed upon for maintaining overall transparency of CPEC. As regards to the new projects, the Joint Working Groups of ministries/departments should plan the feasibility works at priority and ensure timely initiation of projects. Another milestone achievement was inclusion of industrial zones/SEZs in CPEC projects. Such socio-economic development through focused steps in KP, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan would ensure creation of secure enabling environment which is vital for the future of CPEC.
Chinese concerns on security need to be allayed through continuous engagement and sensitization on security environment. Realistic security assurances need to be made with Chinese as both Pakistan and China remain key stakeholders for security as shared responsibility.