At a time when some major countries are overtly or covertly opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient routes of Silk Road, and which includes Pakistan, France has declared its support for China’s gigantic programme.
Talking to chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum, French Ambassador to Pakistan Marc Barety said: “France supports the Chinese BRI concept and is ready to invest in the subsequent phases of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) provided transparency is ensured,” official minutes of the meeting made available yesterday show.
The remarks came amidst reports suggesting that the United States, Australia, Japan and India were considering establishing a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative in an attempt to counter Beijing’s spreading influence.
The ambassador also showed keen interest in the defence sector but expressed his disappointment that French competing companies could not win any of the three tenders floated for radars, submarines maintenance and mobile bridges which were won by the companies from the US, Turkey and China, respectively.
He pointed out that the submarines, for which the tenders for maintenance were floated, had been provided by France.
The committee chairman assured the ambassador that the procedures followed were transparent and French companies would always get fair chance to compete.
Gen Qayyum said that Pakistan also looked forward to French investment in health, education, energy and especially in railways and connectivity.
The French ambassador said his country’s investments in Pakistan would be enhanced in due course of time.
He said that about 40 French companies, including Engie, TOTAL and Sanofi, were doing successful business in Pakistan and France wanted to enhance bilateral trade, which was presently only €1.4bn.
He said France and Germany were planning joint cultural events in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar.
He appreciated that in view of tremendous improvement in the security situation in Pakistan these events were being held with desired freedom.
The ambassador informed the committee chairman that France was also opening French language institutes in Peshawar, Faisalabad and Karachi.
Gen Qayyum said Pakistan appreciated and welcomed France’s willingness to increase its investments in Pakistan.
He also welcomed the French government’s decision to participate in the forthcoming Asian Parliamentary Association (APA) meeting scheduled to be held in Gwadar on October 29 and 30.
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