The government has decided that agreements with Saudia Arabia will not be a part of CPEC and will instead feature as separate bilateral arrangements.
Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar clarified that Saudia Arabia would not enter CPEC as a partner, emphasising that the CPEC framework was bilateral between Pakistan and China.
The minister said that instead, the base of CPEC will be broadened and the pace of work will be increased. He further stated that other countries could be involved in trilateral arrangements for infrastructure development like China-Pakistan-Japan or China-Pakistan-Saudia Arabia within Joint Working Groups (JWGs) or Joint Coordination Committees (JCCs) in CPEC.
Addressing questions about the ML-1, the minister said that the government will adopt the build, own and transfer (BOT) model so that loan repayments would be easier on the government.
The joint press conference between Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar happened a day after questions were posed in the Senate regarding CPEC. Senator Raza Rabbani of the opposition party questioned whether China had been taken into confidence before offering Saudia Arabia to become a partner in the project.
He further said that the parliament should be taken into confidence regarding changes to the CPEC and no announcement had been made by the PM regarding his visit to Saudia Arabia.
Concerns have also arisen due to reports of an oil refinery being developed by Saudia Arabia in Gwadar. Involvement of Saudia Arabia in the port may be contentious as Iran borders Baluchistan and is Saudia Arabia’s regional rival. Moreover, lawmakers questioned whether the provincial government was asked before projects like Reko Diq were given to Saudia Arabia as minerals and resources fell under the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
Mr. Khusro Bakhtiar said that CPEC had a far bigger potential than $50 billion and would continue to expand. He said that currently, $29 billion worth of projects were in progress.