Pakistan discussing expansion of CPEC to Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said it is in talks with the Taliban-led Afghanistan to join the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project to develop Afghanistan’s economy.
“Regional connectivity is an important element of our discussion with Afghan leadership and our way forward for our economic interaction with Afghanistan,” Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul, told in an interview with Reuters.
“This important project, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, provides good opportunities, good potential for providing infrastructure and energy connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan… (and) also connecting South Asia to the Central Asian region.”
CPEC is a main part of the Belt and Road Initiative, under which China has promised over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s envoy said that discussions had been held with the new Taliban government in Kabul on this and other ways to help develop Afghanistan’s economy.
“I think there has been a deep interest in terms of developing economic connectivity of Afghanistan with Pakistan through CPEC and with other neighbouring countries including Iran, China, and Central Asian countries.”
Recently, Pakistan, China and Russia have held meetings with Taliban officials.
Khan said security and economic development remained the main agenda during discussions. China and Russia are likely to continue as a team during future meetings with the Taliban.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country’s economic system is near to a collapse as its international aid has suffered. Billions of dollars in central bank assets held abroad have been frozen, pushing Afghanistan’s banking system into a crisis.
Khan said that Pakistan was also trying to work with the world to ease restrictions on the banking system. Several Pakistani financial executives had visited Kabul in recent days to analyze the situation.
The United States and other Western nations are hesitant to provide the Taliban with funds until they provide assurances that they will uphold human rights and women rights.
Pakistan is concerned about the economic pressure hitting its neighbour. It shares a border with Afghanistan and hosts millions of Afghan refugees.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has been pressing the world not to isolate the Taliban administration, saying aid should be given to prevent economic collapse and a wave of refugees.
Pakistan has not yet recognised the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan. According to the Pakistani ambassador, “The issues of formal recognition will come later as Pakistan is part of the international community.”
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