China today said it was highly concerned about the security of its workers involved in the USD 46 billion economic corridor passing through Pakistan's troubled Balochistan province after a Baloch militant leader warned of attacks targetting the project.
"China is highly concerned about the security of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC). We appreciate great efforts made by Pakistan side in ensuring the security of corridor and Chinese workers there. We hope that Pakistan side will continue to do so in future," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters here today.
He was replying to a question about the threat of attacks by Allah Nazar Baloch, head of the Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF), who has vowed to target the corridor connecting China's Muslim-majority Xinjiang province and Gwadar Port.
Geng said CPEC is the result of the consensus reached between the leaders of China and Pakistan.
"It is of great importance to improving the well being of the people of the two countries" and improving their economic and social development, he said.
A doctor-turned guerrilla leader, Allah Nazar had said "we not only wish India should support the Baloch national struggle diplomatically and financially, but the whole world".
He had also welcomed the statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on human rights violations in Balochistan.
India has raised objections to the corridor as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. China has brushed aside the objections, saying it is an economic project aimed at improving conditions of people in the region.
The strategic project which included highways, rail and pipelines to pump oil from the ships docked in Gwadar to Xinjiang was also expected to provide access to China to Arabian Sea opposite the Mumbai coastline.
But in recent months China is increasingly getting worried about safety of thousands of its workers involved in the project even though Pakistan is forming a new security force providing two security men to every Chinese workers.
Yet a Chinese worker was wounded in a bomb attack in May.
China showed signs of unease since Pakistan ramped up the violent campaign in Kashmir leading to India-Pakistan tensions as Modi came out in support of Baloch people criticising the human rights violations by Pakistan security forces.
For the first time, Chinese official media said this month that Beijing is concerned over "increasing cost of security" and the "potential setbacks" to the project.
In an article on September 13, state-run Global Times said the project is unlikely to have a "plain sailing".
"China may not want to put too much focus on the region. At the very least, it would be unwise to put all its eggs in one basket," it said, highlighting for the first time China's increasing disquiet over the project which also also cast a major shadow over India-China relations.