【New Delhi】China's Belt and Road programme has found new life in Pakistan with $11 billion worth of projects signed in the last month (June), driven by a former lieutenant general who has reinvigorated the infrastructure plan that's been languishing since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office two years ago.
The nations signed deals on June 25 and July 6 for two hydro-power generation projects costing $3.9 billion in the disputed Kashmir region, and another to revamp the South Asian nation's colonial-era railways for $7.2 billion — the most expensive Chinese project yet in Pakistan.
Khan's government appointed Asim Saleem Bajwa last year to run the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, which oversees more than $70 billion in projects from power plants to highways. He also joined Khan's Cabinet in late April, becoming one of more than a dozen former and current military officials in prominent government roles. In a tweet last month, Bajwa said some detractors had given the "false impression" that CPEC had been slowed. Not only has the pace of work on projects picked up recently, but a great deal of ground work has been done to launch phase two of the project that also includes special economic zones to lure Chinese manufacturers, agriculture, science, technology and tourism, he wrote.
Indeed there's deepening concerns over Islamabad's ability to service its debts under the programme. The Center for Global Development has listed Pakistan among eight nations that face potential debt-sustainability problems because of the initiative. The country must repay China more than double the amount it owes the IMF over the next three years, according to IMF.
Both hydro projects are in Kashmir, and the railway is part of a much longer, and still far-fetched plan to connect China and Pakistan by rail, also passing through occupied territory, said Jonathan Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Pakistan back in China's Belt and Road game with projects worth $11 bn
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