ISLAMABAD: Senior US diplomat Alice Wells has renewed the criticism of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), emphasising that there is no transparency in the projects and it will increase cash-strapped Pakistan's debt burden.
Speaking at an event here on Tuesday during her four-day visit to Pakistan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia also said that companies blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts under the CPEC.
The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
Wells had in November last year urged Pakistanis to ask "tough questions" to China on the CPEC, saying the project is going to take a toll on the country's economy.
The CPEC was launched in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and it now envisages investment of over USD 60 billion in different projects of development in Pakistan.
Wells said that there was no transparency in the CPEC projects and Pakistan's debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing, a report in the Dawn newspaper said.
Criticising the CPEC, she urged Pakistan to rethink its involvement in it.
The US diplomat also questioned the immunity from prosecution for the newly formed CPEC Authority that served as the focal body working to identify new areas of cooperation and projects, besides facilitation, coordination and monitoring of ongoing projects.
Talking about Pakistan's debt issue, Wells insisted that Chinese money was not an assistance.
By getting Chinese financing for the projects, Pakistan was buying expensive loans and as a buyer it needed to be aware that what it was doing would take a heavy toll on its already struggling economy.
Previously, Wells had said, "We hope Pakistanis will ask Beijing tough questions on debt, accountability, fairness and transparency. Ask the Chinese government why it is pursuing a development model in Pakistan, that significantly deviates from what brought China its own economic success."
Wells' recent remarks were made after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sought closer engagement and a robust trade and investment relationship between Pakistan and the US during his recent visit to Washington.
Qureshi had also sought help from the US to get the country off the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) grey list.
The US has been critical of the CPEC.
Some of the projects had already been completed but others were facing delays as Pakistan and China are working on operational and funding details.
The diplomat also touched on the cost escalation in a railways project linking Karachi with Peshawar.
She urged the government to be transparent about the mega project.