China pledged on Thursday to support Pakistan on the security of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
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“We look forward to close cooperation with Pakistan to ensure proper management and security of the CPEC,” Vice Chairman of Central Military Commission of China Gen Fan Changlong was quoted by ISPR as telling Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif during a meeting at the General Headquarters.
Gen Fan is ranked third in the Chinese hierarchy. The visit, which took place after a break of 11 years, aims to strengthen military-to-military relations and collaboration on regional peace and stability. Gen Fan is leading a high-level delegation, which includes Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and Zhu Fuxi, Political Commissar of the PLA Chengdu Military Area Command (MAC). The two countries launched this year the $46 billion CPEC project, which connects Gwadar at the Arabian Sea with Xinjiang and includes energy, transportation, and infrastructure projects. Security has emerged as a major concern in the execution of the project.
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The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), which is constructing 870-kilometre road network in Balochistan as part of western route of the CPEC, has lost 25 of its workers — both military personnel and civilians — in about 200 security-related incidents since the start of the work on the road. Pakistani officials believe that India has been threatening the project because it counterbalances its (Indian) plans for exploiting Chinese weakness in the Indian Ocean by blocking the Strait of Malacca in times of conflict. Gen Fan, who travels to India after the Pakistan visit, stressed during his meeting at the GHQ that the CPEC was equally beneficial for both Pakistan and China and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for maintaining its security. Chinese official Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, while briefing media on Gen Fan’s visit, said that China would meet Pakistan army’s needs for CPEC protection. The army is setting up a 10,000-strong special force to protect projects to be carried out under the CPEC and Chinese workers associated with them.