Pakistan struggles to address China’s concerns over Gwadar

Imran Khan’s government has made desperate attempts to address Beijing’s concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the crown jewel of the Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan has agreed to include the much-delayed Gwadar power plant on its priority list, according to people familiar with the project. The step will help provide power to the port of Gwadar under the CPEC – it now faces power cuts of 12 to 16 hours a day, resulting in power imports from Iran.

Pakistan has also agreed to accelerate other projects in Gwadar (a key pillar of CPEC) in addition to providing security for Chinese nationals in the region. The two sides ratified the decisions on Friday during Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China.

The CPEC links China’s Xinjiang province with Gwadar and crosses Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, much to India’s chagrin.

On Friday, the two sides signed a new industrial cooperation agreement under the CPEC plan. The agreement between the Pakistan Investment Council and China’s National Development and Reform Commission aims to boost Chinese investment in Pakistan as well as transfer Chinese industrial capacity.

The industrial cooperation agreement is a key part of what is called “phase two” of the CPEC. The first phase mainly concerned Chinese investments in energy projects as well as road infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army clashed with Baloch groups for a third consecutive day on Friday. On Wednesday, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) launched two assaults on paramilitary Pak Border Corps bases in Naushki and Panjgur districts in Balochistan, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 soldiers.

The BLA said it killed 170 Pakistani soldiers in the two assaults. The group opposed the CPEC and the Gwadar port project and what they call Chinese settlement activities in the province.

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