Islamabad, Jan 24 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has rejected the criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as “nonsense”, insisting that the project “is really helping” the country, a media report said on Friday.
“When the Chinese came to help us with this Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC, we were really at the rock bottom,” Khan said in a CNBC interview when asked if the project was a debt-trap for Pakistan.
“So, we are really grateful to the Chinese that they came and rescued us,” Dawn news reported citing the Prime Minister as saying in the interview in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the annual World Economic Forum.
“They came and pumped in, not just they gave us loans – and the loans, by the way are barely 5 or 6 per cent of the total portfolio,” said Khan, rejecting the suggestion that the CPEC was a debt-trap and adding that “this is nonsense”.
Because of the Chinese, Pakistan now “has an opportunity to attract foreign investment”, the Prime Minister said, adding that his government was also creating special economic zones to attract investment.
Khan’s remarks came after earlier this week, visiting senior US diplomat Alice Wells once again urged Pakistan to rethink its wholeheartedly embrace of China’s economic initiative, Dawn news reported.
Speaking at a think-tank in Islamabad, she alleged that there was no transparency in the CPEC projects, and warned that the country’s debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing.
Both Chinese and Pakistani officials have rejected the US criticism.
The $60 billion CPEC is a key project of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through a vast network of highways, rail lines and sea lanes.
The multi-billion dollar corridor connects the Chinese city of Kashgar with Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.