China will provide about $1 billion in soft loans for three new road projects along the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), connecting the “shortest route from Gwadar to China”, a senior Pakistani official said.
Syed Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province, said China will invest in new roads and factories to help smaller Pakistani provinces integrate into the project.
The eastern and western routes of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor “should operate like two legs of a body,” said Shah. However, more investment and opportunities have gone into the eastern route, where most of the country’s industrial and financial sectors are located, he said.
“The economically smaller provinces feel deprived and left out of the project,” he said. “CPEC is a national project, after all, and should improve the economy throughout the country.”
Shah was in Beijing for the sixth China-Pakistan Joint Cooperation Committee meeting on Dec 29 in Beijing.
It was the first time that the chief ministers from all of Pakistan’s provinces were invited to discuss industrial cooperation, he said.
Tang Mengsheng, director of the Pakistan Studies Center of Peking University, also said China and Pakistan both need a top-level government body to run the CPEC and “facilitate interconnectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, currency and people”.
Sun Shihai, director of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, said that developing the western route not only will help local economies flourish, but also will ensure a robust and convenient trade network as the bedrock of CPEC’s success.