Pakistan has accused the US of colluding with its longtime rival India to sabotage the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
The rare direct charge came from the head of the local CPEC authority, Khalid Mansoor, who is also a special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, at a seminar organized by the prestigious Institute of Business Administration in the business capital of Karachi, local English-language daily Dawn reported on Sunday.
Washington has long opposed the $64 billion project, calling it a "debt trap" for Pakistan, but this is the first time Islamabad has reacted this bluntly.
New Delhi, an archrival of Beijing and Islamabad, has also opposed the project, which is part of Beijing's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, viewing it as against its strategic interests in the region.
"From the point of view of the emerging geostrategic situation, one thing is clear: the United States supported by India is inimical to CPEC. It will not let it succeed. That’s where we have to take a position,” Mansoor was quoted as saying.
"There’s no way Pakistan will forgo any of its benefits. It has more than once burnt its fingers in (the Western) alliance in the past,” he said, adding that attempts to dilute Beijing's strategic influence in the region will not succeed.
The West, he went on to argue, views CPEC as a symbol of China’s political ambition.
“That’s the reason CPEC is seen suspiciously by both the United States and Europe… They view CPEC more as a move by China to expand its political, strategic, and business influence,” Mansoor added.
Islamabad, he said, has discussed the possibility of Afghanistan's inclusion in the CPEC with the Taliban government, but gave no further details, including Kabul's response.
Signed in 2015, the CPEC aims to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinjiang province to the port of Gwadar in southern Pakistan, through a network of roads, railways, and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.