ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will not only serve as a game-changer for Pakistan, but a fate-changer for entire region by helping it rid of economic deprivation and attain peace and prosperity. “The CPEC is a new concept of diplomacy based on shared goals of prosperity for Pakistan and the region, and a project to eliminate poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment,” he said in his address at the inaugural session of the two-day CPEC Summit and Expo. Speaking on the occasion, the premier said that the overall contribution and impact of the CPEC would be much deeper and far-reaching than its economic value of $46 billion. The premier termed the project as “a game-changer” that would bring prosperity to the region consisting of 3 billion people, almost half of the world’s population. He said that the CPEC was the most important economic initiative for South Asia in the 21st century. He said that by working together, “we can bring peace and stability to the region through economic development”. He said that the region had witnessed a lot of conflict and deprivation in the past. He also said that the two sides always supported each other in times of distress and recalled Chinese assistance to Pakistan following the devastating earthquake in 2005 and floods in 2010. He said that Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Pakistan in 2014 told the parliament that Pakistan stood by China when it was isolated. Now, China has reached out to Pakistan when it stands economically isolated, Nawaz Sharif recalled the statement of President Xi. The prime minister said that the present government had put the country on the path of growth. “Last year, we had the highest GDP growth in eight years. Our foreign reserves have more than doubled in just three years,” he added. He said that Pakistan’s stock market was performing better than any other stock market in Asia, adding that the security situation had vastly improved due to ongoing operation against terrorists. Nawaz said that the CPEC would be a unique model of economic development and international economic cooperation. He said that the CPEC would not only create a strong overland link between Pakistan and China but also “give us an opportunity to strengthen Pakistan’s own inland transportation and logistics infrastructure”. Addressing the summit, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said, “We need to change the phrase ‘Pak-China friendship is higher than Himalayas’ to ‘higher than stars’, as we are working to put satellite into the orbit with Chinese cooperation by 2018.” He said the present government took the CPEC out of the papers and started implementing it in just two years. “It was a dream, but now it is a reality.” He said it was only possible because both China and Pakistan took the CPEC as a mission. In his remarks, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong said that the CPEC was a pilot project of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, aimed at promoting peace, cooperation and shared prosperity. Expressing satisfaction over the CPEC’s smooth progress, he said the project would benefit entire Pakistan. “The project has already created tens of thousands of jobs for Pakistani people,” he said, and expressed confidence that the mega project would create more such opportunities in the future as well, with better healthcare and education facilities. The Chinese ambassador appreciated the steps taken by Pakistan for the security of workers and officials working on the CPEC. He said that it was a “win-win” project for both the countries. “We want to see Pakistan [as] a peaceful and prosperous country” and China is ready to help the country in this regard, he said.