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Pakistan struggles to address China’s concerns over Gwadar

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The Imran Khan government has made desperate attempts to address Beijing’s concerns over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the crown jewel of the Belt & 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 supply electricity to the Gwadar port under CPEC – it now faces 12-16 hours power outages daily, resulting in energy imports from Iran.

Pakistan has also agreed to fast track other projects in Gwadar (a key pillar of CPEC) besides providing security to Chinese nationals in the area. Both sides ratified these decisions on Friday during Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China.

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

On Friday, the two sides signed a new agreement on industrial cooperation as part of the CPEC plan. The agreement between Pakistan’s Board of Investment and China’s National Development and Reform Commission is aimed at boosting Chinese investment in Pakistan as well as transferring Chinese industrial capacity.

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

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army battled Baloch groups for a third straight day on Friday. On Wednesday, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) launched twin assaults on bases of the Pak paramilitary Frontier Corps in the Naushki and Panjgur districts in Balochistan, leading to the deaths of at least 12 soldiers.

The BLA said it has killed 170 Pakistan soldiers in the twin assaults. The group has been opposed to the CPEC and the Gwadar port project and what they call Chinese colonisation activities in the province.

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