Islamabad, July 23

All-weather allies Pakistan and China have decided to welcome "interested" third countries to join the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying it was "an open and inclusive platform" for mutually beneficial cooperation.

Launched in 2013, the CPEC is a corridor linking Pakistan's Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which highlights energy, transport and industrial cooperation.

‘Mutually beneficial cooperation’

The third meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group (JWG) on International Cooperation and Coordination (JWG-ICC) was held in virtual mode on Friday. During the meeting, which was co-chaired by Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao, both sides reviewed the continued implementation of the CPEC and its expansion to the jointly agreed priority areas, according to a statement by the Foreign Office here.

It was noted that as a flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the CPEC had broken new ground in strengthening international and regional connectivity, especially in the context of its extension to Afghanistan.

“As an open and inclusive platform, both sides welcomed interested third-parties to benefit from avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation opened up by CPEC,” according to the Foreign Office.

India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The CPEC is a USD 60 billion flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of the Chinese government and promoted by President Xi Jinping.

Central element of Pakistan-China partnership

During Friday's meeting, Pakistan and China also agreed that CPEC’s development had reached a new point, with increasing emphasis on high-quality development of industry, agriculture, IT, and science and technology, while ensuring tangible socio-economic benefits for the people.

Foreign Secretary Mahmood underscored the centrality of the time-tested Pakistan-China all-weather strategic cooperative partnership in Pakistan’s foreign policy. He said that manifesting the historic choice of both countries and peoples, the vitality and dynamism of CPEC reflected the deep-seated mutual goodwill that lay at the heart of the bilateral relationship.

“The timely completion of CPEC projects and steady progress on realising important projects in the pipeline was energising bilateral cooperation and further strengthening the foundation for Pakistan’s economic modernisation and enhancing the capacity for sustained progress and prosperity,” he said.

Many Western think tanks and commentators have termed the CPEC an economic debt trap.