Chinese government's top diplomat says Beijing not saddling Pakistan with debt

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat defended Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative during a visit to Pakistan on Saturday, rejecting criticism the project has saddled Pakistan with expensive debt. State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Pakistan for a three-day visit in the first high-level meetings between the neighbors since new Prime Minister Imran Khan took office. Beijing has pledged $57 billion in loans for Pakistan as part of its vast Belt and Road initiative, deepening ties at a time when Islamabad’s relations with Washington are fraying over how to deal with Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan. Whether China was overburdening Pakistan with debt has become a sore point for both nations, who both say the loans are sustainable, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July warned any potential International Monetary Fund bailout for Pakistan’s troubled economy should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. Wang said the Pakistani portion of the Belt and Road initiative, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has helped increase economic growth by 1-2 percent and has contributed 70,000 jobs. “CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy,” Wang said during a news conference in the capital Islamabad. Standing next to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Wang said 47 percent of Pakistan’s debt comes from the IMF and the Asian Development Bank. Wang said 22 operational CPEC projects, of which nine have been completed, have triggered investment worth $19 billion so far. He also rejected concerns about transparency of CPEC by saying those worries were “false” as all the projects had undergone necessary approvals. Qureshi said CPEC remains the “top priority” of the new government, adding that the two governments would focus on projects with socio-economic development. “They will be considering projects that have a livelihood connection to them, that means job creation. He has spoken about initiatives in health and education, vocational training, how do we want to make our people more productive if they want to export,” Qureshi said. The two men did not mention whether China would give more loans to help Pakistan’s current account crisis. Pakistan is battling a worsening balance of payments crisis that may push it to seek a fresh bailout from the IMF, though officials have not ruled out other options such as a bailout from China. Wang will also call on Prime Minister Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the foreign office said. Wang’s visit comes days after Pompeo’s trip to Pakistan last week along with the U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the first high-level U.S. visit to the new government, with the secretary of state saying he was hopeful for “a reset of relations” between the two countries. window.RCOM_Data = {“header_teloyzkrrv”:{“template”:”header”,”evergreens”:[{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/news/world”,”name”:”World”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/finance”,”name”:”Business”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/finance/markets”,”name”:”Markets”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/politics”,”name”:”Politics”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.tv/”,”name”:”TV”,”sponsored”:false}],”topics”:[{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/subjects/myanmar-reporters”,”name”:”Detained In Myanmar”,”sponsored”:false},{“url”:”https://www.reuters.com/energy-environment”,”name”:”Energy u0026 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governmentu0027s top diplomat says Beijing not saddling Pakistan with debt”,”authors”:[{“name”:”Saad Sayeed”,”journalist_url”:”/journalists/saad-sayeed”}],”shareUrl”:”https://reut.rs/2oRCLet”,”published”:1536369293,”updated”:1536400746,”path”:”/article/us-pakistan-china/chinese-governments-top-diplomat-says-beijing-not-saddling-pakistan-with-debt-idUSKCN1LO01O”,”location”:”ISLAMABAD”,”body”:”u003cpu003eBy Saad Sayeedu003c/pu003enu003cpu003eISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The Chinese governmentu0027s top diplomat defended Beijingu0027s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative during a visit to Pakistan on Saturday, rejecting criticism the project has saddled Pakistan with expensive debt.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eState Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Pakistan for a three-day visit in the first high-level meetings between the neighbors since new Prime Minister Imran Khan took office.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eBeijing has pledged $57 billion in loans for Pakistan as part of its vast Belt and Road initiative, deepening ties at a time when Islamabadu0027s relations with Washington are fraying over how to deal with Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWhether China was overburdening Pakistan with debt has become a sore point for both nations, who both say the loans are sustainable, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July warned any potential International Monetary Fund bailout for Pakistanu0027s troubled economy should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWang said the Pakistani portion of the Belt and Road initiative, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has helped increase economic growth by 1-2 percent and has contributed 70,000 jobs.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003e”CPEC has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan, rather when these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits…and these will create considerable returns to the Pakistani economy,” Wang said during a news conference in the capital Islamabad.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eStanding next to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Wang said 47 percent of Pakistanu0027s debt comes from the IMF and the Asian Development Bank.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWang said 22 operational CPEC projects, of which nine have been completed, have triggered investment worth $19 billion so far. He also rejected concerns about transparency of CPEC by saying those worries were “false” as all the projects had undergone necessary approvals.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eQureshi said CPEC remains the “top priority” of the new government, adding that the two governments would focus on projects with socio-economic development.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003e”They will be considering projects that have a livelihood connection to them, that means job creation. He has spoken about initiatives in health and education, vocational training, how do we want to make our people more productive if they want to export,” Qureshi said. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eThe two men did not mention whether China would give more loans to help Pakistanu0027s current account crisis. Pakistan is battling a worsening balance of payments crisis that may push it to seek a fresh bailout from the IMF, though officials have not ruled out other options such as a bailout from China.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWang will also call on Prime Minister Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the foreign office said. u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eWangu0027s visit comes days after Pompeou0027s trip to Pakistan last week along with the U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the first high-level U.S. visit to the new government, with the secretary of state saying he was hopeful for “a reset of relations” between the two countries.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eu003c/pu003en”,”attribution”:{“type”:”default”,”content”:”Reporting by Saad Sayeed; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jacqueline Wong”},”images”:[{“url”:”//s2.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?mu003d02u0026du003d20180908u0026tu003d2u0026iu003d1302136815u0026ru003dLYNXNPEE870AG”,”title”:”Pakistanu0027s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hand with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad”,”caption”:”Pakistanu0027s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hand with State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, September 8, 2018. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)/Handout via REUTERS”}],”channel_stories”:[{“id”:”USKCN1LO03R”,”updated”:1536378384,”headline”:”U.S. military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons”,”path”:”/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/u-s-military-drawing-up-options-should-syria-use-chemical-weapons-idUSKCN1LO03R”,”image”:”//s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?mu003d02u0026du003d20180908u0026tu003d1u0026iu003d1302073900u0026ru003dLYNXNPEE87042″},{“id”:”USKCN1LO07Z”,”updated”:1536394275,”headline”:”U.S. sends Iran messages u0027every dayu0027 to begin negotiations: Iran president”,”path”:”/article/us-nuclear-iran/u-s-sends-iran-messages-every-day-to-begin-negotiations-iran-president-idUSKCN1LO07Z”,”image”:”//s4.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?mu003d02u0026du003d20180908u0026tu003d1u0026iu003d1302141244u0026ru003dLYNXNPEE87099″},{“id”:”USKCN1LO0EO”,”updated”:1536401852,”headline”:”Russian and Syrian jets pound Idlib province after summit”,”path”:”/article/us-mideast-syria-idlib/russian-and-syrian-jets-pound-idlib-province-after-summit-idUSKCN1LO0EO”}],”description”:”The Chinese governmentu0027s top diplomat defended Beijingu0027s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative during a visit to Pakistan on Saturday, rejecting criticism the project has saddled Pakistan with expensive debt.u003c/pu003enu003cpu003eState”,”dart_zone”:”us.reuters/world/article”,”link_to_parent”:false,”show_others_in_parent”:false,”canvas_enable”:false},”translations”:{“shared”:{“disclaimer”:”Disclaimer”,”sponsored_content”:”Sponsored”,”related_coverage”:”Related Coverage”,”sponsored_topics”:”Sponsored”,”sponsored_stories”:”Sponsored”,”updated”:”Updated []”,”slideshow”:”Slideshow”,”featured”:”Featured”,”edition”:”Edition”,”trending”:”Trending”,”advertisement”:”Advertisement”,”visit_now”:”Visit Now”,”show_full_article”:”Show Full Article”,”breaking_news”:”Breaking News”,”live_update”:”Live Update”,”the_wire”:”The Wire”,”image_count”:”[] Images”,”sections”:”Sections”,”get_the_app_banner_top”:”Better questions. 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