Saudi Arabia will not be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, a Pakistani minister said on Tuesday. This is a reversal from the announcement by Pakistan on September 20 that Riyadh would be the third “strategic partner” in the ambitious $50-billion project. India opposes the project as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar’s statement came while a Saudi delegation is in Pakistan to identify and sign projects to invest in. However, the kingdom’s proposed investments will fall under a separate bilateral arrangement, Dawn reported him as saying.

Bakhtiar said there was no decision to bring a third country under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who had earlier announced that Riyadh would be a part of the project, was also present with him at the press conference. Chaudhry’s announcement on September 20 had come after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Bakhtiar clarified on Tuesday when he was asked about the possibility of Saudi Arabia joining the Joint Working Groups or Joint Coordination Committee on the Chinese corridor project. He said that instead, there may be many offshoots of the project with trilateral arrangements for infrastructure development, with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan or Germany as the third party.

He said that any country can invest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on a project basis, reported The News International.

“Saudi Arabia is not to become a collateral strategic partner in the CPEC,” Bakhtiar said. “This impression is not true. The framework between China and Pakistan is bilateral and Saudi Arabia is not entering that framework as a third-party investor. Rather, the base of CPEC will be broadened and its pace will be expedited.”