China’s decision to temporarily stop funding at least three road projects in Pakistan affiliated with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) component of Beijing’s ambitious multi-trillion dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has left Islamabad “stunned,” reports DAWN.
Beijing’s decision to pull the plug on the projects comes after its ally Pakistan canceled a major $14 billion hydroelectricity project, also linked to the estimated $3 trillion OBOR, citing strict financing terms imposed by China.
The CPEC component of OBOR, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the modern-day “Silk Road,” is estimated to be worth $55 billion.
Beijing cited concerns about corruption linked to the projects when justifying its decision to cut funding, DAWN learned from an unnamed Islamabad-based senior government official.
Referring to the anonymous source, DAWN reports:
The official said the Pakistani side was left “stunned” when told of this development since it was the first time they were hearing it.
He, however, claimed that Chinese side was quite disturbed with increasing news reports being published in Pakistan regarding corruption in CPEC projects and that was the reason China has temporarily halted release of funds for the corridor.
Money for the road projects would be released after Beijing issues “new guidelines,” the unnamed official told the Pakistani newspaper.
China’s recent move may affect Pakistan National Highway Authority (NHA) road projects worth more than $9.5 billion (1 trillion Pakistani Rupees), acknowledges DAWN.
“In fact, the Chinese authorities informed us that the previous procedure of release of funds was meant for early harvest projects only and new guidelines will be issued for future projects of the CPEC,” the Pakistani official told DAWN.
“This suggests that the impact of the new procedures could be much wider than just the three roads mentioned by the official,” points out the Pakistani newspaper.
To the dismay of India, CPEC is expected to run through through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), linking China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, the largest province in the country.
OBOR is expected to be a massive network of land and sea links connecting Xinjiang, China’s biggest province, to more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa along one route.
Angered that CPEC is expected to run through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a region that is also claimed by New Delhi, India has refused to join the OBOR initiative despite efforts from China to persuade New Delhi it is in its best interest to do so.
Although the Islamic terrorism threat facing China originates mainly from Pakistan and to a lesser extent neighboring Afghanistan, Beijing continues to provide economic and military assistance to Islamabad.
Islamic terrorists have already killed some Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects in Pakistan.
“China exploits the longstanding rivalry between India and Pakistan to ensure its own ambitions in South Asia are achieved,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission told American lawmakers last year. “This strategy aims to keep India so preoccupied with its western neighbor that it will not have the ability to mount a serious challenge to China’s power and influence in Asia.”