Our message is same for Tajikistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka: US Ambassador Wells

Feb 07, 2020 (LBO) – US Ambassador Alice Wells says that on Belt and Road Initiative or on China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, their message is the same whether they are engaging with Tajikistan, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, Alice Wells pointed out that countries are going to benefit most if they create the regulatory environment that attracts and unlocks Western capital and private sector investment, where they excel at and where American firms have been tremendous drivers of economic growth and modernization.

Answering to a question at a recent panel discussion at the American conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, she added that the estimate in the Indo-Pacific region of 27 trillion dollars in infrastructure investment required means that no one country is going to be able to be the answer to development.

Q&A:

Audience: My name is Kami Butt with the Pakistan Spectator. Ms. Wells, my question is about BRI, Belt Road Initiative, in the context of Pakistani seaport Gwadar and China’s view of overtaking like it did in Sri Lanka. Given that Pakistan, I mean in Muslim and India, are out-performing in many socio-economic indicators to their Pakistani brethren shows that Pakistan is really has become, it’s very difficult to sustain itself.

So given Pakistan is getting so much loan in different programs, are you feeling that China might take Gwadar at some point because Pakistan would be unable to repay its debt? And if that happens, do you think we should try to improve our relationship with Iran because that is the best option if we lose Gwadar and if we lose Pakistan in that context. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Wells: On Belt and Road or on CPEC, our message is the same whether we’re engaging with Tajikistan or Pakistan or Sri Lanka, Cambodia. It’s that investment infrastructure is critical. We understand countries need it. The estimate in the Indo-Pacific region of $27 trillion in infrastructure investment required means that no one country is going to be able to be the answer to development. Instead, countries are going to benefit most if they create the regulatory environment that attracts and unlocks Western capital and private sector investment, where we excel at and where American firms have been tremendous drivers of economic growth and modernization.

I say that coming from Kazakhstan where you have the tremendous example of what partnership with Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil has provided. It’s provided over 90 percent employment for Kazakhstani nationals. It’s fueled the economy. It’s an engine of modernization. That’s what we’d like our partners to benefit from.

So this is not a punitive message when we discuss concerns over debt sustainability. WE want to be able to help and assist countries to be able to tap the most sustainable high standard infrastructure investment that will pay dividends for them as well as for shareholders.