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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office said Friday that the government gives the highest level of priority to safety and security of Chinese personnel and projects, and the assurance has been communicated to the Chinese leadership at the highest level.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said that the safety and security of Chinese personnel, programmes and projects have been a matter that has been accorded the highest level of priority by the government of Pakistan.

“We continue to have discussions with our Chinese friends on this. At the highest levels the assurances have been communicated to the Chinese leadership regarding Pakistan’s commitment to ensure the safety and security and to take all necessary measures in that regard,” he added.

During his meetings with the Chinese leadership in the recent visit, he added that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed the government’s commitment to high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and highlighted the salience of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for Pakistan’s economic and social development.

Various projects under CPEC including ML-1, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), projects of the Gwadar port and free zone, cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, IT and socioeconomic development were also discussed, he added.

He said that CPEC has been there on the ground for quite a while and it has contributed to rejuvenating Pakistan’s economic development. He said that the first phase of CPEC was focusing on energy shortfall and infrastructure projects while the second phase was focusing on agriculture, industrialization and socioeconomic development, and there is a renewed focus now again on some of the major infrastructure projects.

China thanks Pakistan army for providing safe, secure environment to CPEC

“CPEC is a flagship project of BRI. It is a project that is aiming at development and socioeconomic progress, not only in Pakistan, but the entire region and beyond,” he said, adding that this is a project for the long term and there are many activities that have been concluded. There are others that are in the pipeline, and there will be projects in the future with mutual agreement and understanding, he added.

On Kashmir, the spokesperson said that China’s position on Jammu and Kashmir has been consistent and always very clearly articulated including in the recent joint statement, and also on support for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“I don’t see any reason to assume that there is any change in position, either from Pakistan or China, with regard to our respective core issues….So, I can reassure you that there is no shortcoming of any kind in the joint statement,” he stated in response to a question.

On Pakistan’s position on “One China” policy, he said that these are Pakistan’s long-stated and long-held principled positions in support of China’s core issues. “Pakistan has expressed its support for China all along and we will continue to do that. I don’t think it should impact any of our bilateral relations with other countries,” he said in response to a question as to whether this policy may impact Pakistan’s ties with the US.

To another query about a recent statement by a Russian senator who accused Pakistan of providing support to Ukraine regarding nuclear technology, the spokesperson said that Pakistan has sought clarification from Russia with regard to the statement.

“We were actually surprised by such a baseless and unfounded statement. It has no rationale whatsoever and it is also inconsistent with the spirit of Pakistan-Russia relations. We have sought clarification from the Russian side and we are pursuing it here in Islamabad and in Moscow,” he added.

About the cooperation by Kenyan side in the investigation into the murder of a senior journalist Arshad Sharif, he said that in principle that is the understanding between Pakistan and Kenya that “we have had and we will continue to have full cooperation and coordination from the Kenyan authorities on this matter”.

About the problems being faced by students and families of overseas Pakistanis in getting visas appointments in the embassies of Italy and Germany, he said that the Foreign Office continues to raise the matter with the relevant diplomatic missions.

“This is the job and responsibility of diplomatic missions. This is what we do, when we are abroad, to facilitate the applicants for various visa categories and we expect the same from the diplomatic corps stationed in Pakistan. I think our job is to facilitate these things,” he added.

The spokesperson also announced that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would be participating in the COP-27 related Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh on 7-8 November, adding that further details about that visit would be shared in due course.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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