Pakistan on Thursday rejected US criticism of the USD 60 billion CPEC under China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying the project has helped the cash-strapped country to "fill the gaps" in energy, infrastructure, industrialization and job creation.
Senior US diplomat Alice Wells has said there is no transparency in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the firms blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts under the project, which will increase the country's debt burden.
Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia who is on a four-day visit to Pakistan, made the remarks while speaking at a think tank event on Tuesday.
The Chinese embassy here also rejected her remarks as a "negative propaganda" against the CPEC. "Although you can never wake up a person who is pretending to be asleep, we have to make our position clear and reject the negative propaganda by the US," the embassy's spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
At the weekly media briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said China has helped Pakistan to "fill the gaps in energy, infrastructure, industrialisation and job creation".
"CPEC was not being financed only through loans or non-concessional financing with sovereign guarantees. The CPEC debt amounts to USD 4.9 billion which is not even 10 per cent of the country's total debt," she said.
The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang province with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
The project was launched in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and it now envisages investment of over USD 60 billion in different projects of development in Pakistan.
Highlighting the achievements under the CPEC, Farooqui said 7,000 MW power projects worth USD 12.4 billion have reached completion stage. Responding to a question on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the spokesperson said Pakistan has taken a whole range of steps to meet the requirements of the FATF.
"We remain closely engaged with the FATF members, including the US," she said.
The FATF in October decided to keep Pakistan on its 'Grey' list for failure to curb funnelling of funds to terror groups LeT, JeM and others. If not removed off the list by April, Pakistan may move to a blacklist of countries that face severe economic sanctions, such as Iran.
Pakistan has submitted a 650-page review report to the FATF on January 8. The report was submitted in response to 150 questions raised by the FATF regarding new Pakistani policies on money laundering. The report outlined the steps taken by Pakistan between October 2019 to January 2020 to implement the group's recommendations.
Farooqui also welcomed Donald Trump's offer of mediation on the Kashmir issue and hoped that the desire of the US President would be translated into some kind of action.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Trump said the US is watching the developments between India and Pakistan over Kashmir "very closely" and repeated his offer to "help" resolve the longstanding dispute between the two neighbours.
Trump has repeatedly offered to mediate following India's August 5 decision to revoke the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, evoking strong reactions from Pakistan which has been trying to internationalise the issue.
New Delhi has defended its move, saying Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue was strictly internal to the country, and the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Although President Trump has offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue in the past, New Delhi has told Washington that it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for any third-party mediation.
To a question on India getting S-400 missiles, Farooqui said Pakistan has repeatedly expressed concerns over the induction of ballistic missile defense system in the region.
"Such destabilising systems can undermine regional stability and may lead to an unnecessary arms race," she said, adding that Pakistan has proposed discussion on a strategic restraint regime for South Asia to avoid the induction of the destabilising weapons. Russia has started production of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems for India and all the five units will be delivered by 2025.