China has refused to further expand cooperation in the areas of energy, water management and climate change under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The move by the Dragons indicates tension in the ‘ironclad’ friendship between the two countries. Cash-strapped Pakistan also dropped its opposition to setting up a new imported coal-based power plant in Gwadar in Balochistan province and agreed to several Chinese demands to allay Beijing’s concerns.
The JCC is a strategic decision-making body of CPEC and its 11th meeting was held on October 27 last year on the request of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government. However, the minutes of the meeting were signed almost a year later on 31 July during the visit of Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, highlighting the differences of opinion between the two sides that led to such a long delay in reaching a consensus. The Planning Ministry said it is a global practice that minutes of meetings between two countries are signed by both the parties only after proper consultation and consensus is developed. Interestingly, the final draft shared by Pakistan with Beijing and the final minutes signed by both sides were different in many ways, the report said. It said China’s disagreement on further expanding cooperation under CPEC in the areas of energy, water management and climate change underlines the challenges the two sides face in deepening economic ties.
The $60 billion CPEC connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province. It is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is seen around the world as China’s effort to expand its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investment. CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction across Pakistan since 2013. India has protested against China on CPEC as it is being built through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The final minutes of the 11th JCC revealed that China did not agree with several measures proposed by Pakistan in the areas of energy, water management, climate change and tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, PoK and Pakistan. Details reveal that China left out the cooperation in the areas of cross-border tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, PoK and cooperation to promote coastal tourism in the last minutes. China also did not agree to Pakistan’s proposal to include water resources management and climate change and urban infrastructure development in the CPEC framework. China also rejected a proposal to establish a new joint working group on water resources management and climate change.