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China had strictly adhered to its commitment for financial and technical assistance

Jan-28 - Feb-03, 2002

Chinese experts are already in Pakistan giving final touches to the Master Plan for the construction of a deep sea port at Gawadar along the Arabian Sea and formal ground breaking ceremony is likely to be held on March 23, 2002.

This was disclosed by the Communication Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi, putting at rest the rumours that Gawadar Port project has been shelved by the Pakistan government because of the opposition of US. The Minister was talking to the newsmen informally at a function in Islamabad last week.

He said that China had strictly adhered to its commitment for financial and technical assistance in the construction of the Gawadar deep sea port. Expected to be completed in two phases, the port will provide housing, transshipment, commercial and industrial facilities for international import and export trade with Afghanistan, Central Asian States, Gulf States, East Africa, Red Sea countries and Sri Lanka, through Pakistan.

He said that Balochistan government has already allotted about 18,000 hectares of land, free of cost, for the port construction with ultra modern amenities and facilities for promotion of trade, commerce and industry via sea and overland. There are also plans for railroad network with Gawadar. 653 km long road is already under construction at a cost of over Rs. 11 billion, linking Gawadar with Karachi on one side, while with Jiwani near Iran on the other.

Besides this coastal highway, Pakistan Railways also plans to provide a rail link from Gawadar to Taftan (Iranian border) via Saindak, site for Pakistan's first metallurgical project. This Saindak copper-gold project stands completed since November 1995. It is awaiting commercial production for want of Rs. 1.5 bn, which China has now pledged for its successful commission. The source said that with the availability of funds and technical manpower from China, Saindak project would be productive in about six months time.

The fact that China is Pakistan's tested and tried friend needs no reiteration as it has been proved time and again in the past. China has not only supported Pakistan in world politics, it has lent commendable support in building and updating our defence system and sustained economic development.

Pak-China cooperation in economic field is expanding rapidly in various sectors. The two countries have also signed a formal 350 million dollar contract for development of Saindak Copper and Gold mines project in Balochistan. A Chinese firm has earned the contract to develop and operate the project for a period of ten years. The contract has been finalised in the light of the agreement signed during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Ahu Rongji to Pakistan last May. Pakistan Petroleum Minister Usman Aminuddin, who was present at the contract signing ceremony in Beijing hoped that the Saindak project, which was stuck up for the last five years due to lack of funds, will be reactivated now with the help of the Chinese government.

President Pervez Musharraf undertook a crucial 5-day visit to China early this month. This visit was crucial for many reasons. He arrived in Beijing when tension with India has reached the highest point after Kargil and despite US and China calling upon New Delhi to exercise restraint, hawks like L.K. Advani continued to talk about hot pursuit across the LoC. Pakistan's security problem has been further complicated by the US anti-Al-Qaeda operation in Afghanistan which has forced Islamabad to transfer a large part of its regular forces to the long and porous border with Afghanistan weakening its defences on the LoC and the international border with India.

China has, however, always shown understanding to the limitation and compulsions of Pakistan and has never made any demand from its weaker friend which appeared beyond its capacity. It has shown this understanding time and again. This has been evident in the way China has always come to Pakistan's rescue in times of economic distress. In the last about five years, China's generous balance of payments support to Pakistan had gone a long way in keeping Islamabad economically afloat. True to the pattern, on the very first day of President General Pervez Musharraf's current five-day visit to China, Beijing once again lived up to its reputation of being generous when it came to offering economic support to Pakistan by extending the maturities of past balance of payments support to a medium term. Until this year, the balance of payments support loans used to be renewed annually. In addition, China has offered Pakistan a grant of 100 million dollars and concessional financing for a number of projects amounting to a total of 260 million dollars.

Seven agreements were signed on the first day of President Musharraf's five-day state visit, which will further promote economic development and science and technology in Pakistan. Both the Presidents along with their respective delegations were present on the occasion and witnessed the signing ceremony.

The first agreement regarding Chinese grant assistance to Pakistan was signed by the Minister for Finance Shaukat Aziz while the Chinese Minister for Foreign and Economic Cooperation signed from the Chinese side.

The second agreement on concessional loan for implementation of Saindak project was signed by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Usman Aminuddin while the National Resources Minister of China signed on behalf of China.

The third agreement regarding joint revolving fund for research and development in the field of science and technology was signed by the Pakistan Ambassador in China, Riaz Khokhar, while the Chinese side was led by the Chief of China Bank.

The other agreements regarding extension of 500kv Muzaffargarh and Ghatti transmission lines and Jinnah hydropower project were signed by the Pakistan Ambassador in China while the concerned officials of Chinese government signed on behalf of their respective side. The Chinese government has extended a $100 million grant to Pakistan for various projects. Then there is $200 million of concessional financing. In addition there are several projects totaling $250 million which they are financing. These include hydel power stations, sub-stations for Wapda and transmission lines.