Ask Beijing tough questions on CPEC, US urges Pakistan

The United States urged Pakistan on Thursday to wake up to the exploitative nature of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the crown jewel of relations between the two Asian neighbours and allies, and ask Beijing “tough questions … and insist on accountability, fairness and transparency”.

Before it’s too late and Pakistan finds itself under a mountain of debt that will hamstring the economy for a long time to come and hamper all efforts to reform the economy, the US said in a blunt message.

“Ask the Chinese government why it is pursuing a model of development in Pakistan that significantly deviates from what brought Chinas its own economic success,” said Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, in a speech on challenges posed by the CPEC to Pakistan.

Wells said the CPEC, as it has unfolded since its launch in 2015, has been markedly different from the sort of economic help that China got from the US and other developed countries such as Japan. It lacks in transparency — China won’t say, for instance, how many Chinese workers are in Pakistan to work on related projects — it is significantly costlier and is not creating jobs for Pakistanis.

“We share India’s concerns over projects that don’t have any economic basis and that leads to country ceding sovereignty,” Wells went on to say.

The US official listed out countries and projects scorched by China’s One Belt, One Road policy, of which CPEC is a major part, such as Sri Lanka, which has had to hand over a port to China because it was unable to pay off the debt, and Maldives which was left with mountains of debt.

The diplomat presented America as an alternate model. Unlike the Chinese government, the US doesn’t tell businesses where to go; they go where they see the greatest opportunities, she said.

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