NEW DELHI: India has strong reservation over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the connectivity initiative that is expected to figure prominently in the two- day Belt and Road Forum summit.
India said on Saturday it will not accept any project that violates the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”, effectively ruling out participation in the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) summit beginning Sunday in Beijing to showcase President Xi Jinping signature project.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a core part of the BRF, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) which India claims as its territory.
Twenty-nine countries are expected to be represented by either by their heads of state or government at the BRF, President Xi’s ambitious initiative to connect Asia to Europe and Africa with a massive network of rail, road and maritime links.
In a statement on Saturday, the external affairs ministry said saying “no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity” of all countries, the MEA said.
“Guided by our principled position in the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative…We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side.”
The infrastructure project, couched in China’s soft power projections, would help China get road routes that are necessary for both its energy needs and selling goods in Asian, European and African markets.
India is also concerned that the 3,000 km long project connecting Pakistan’s deep-water port Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang stem from the fact the facility in Pakistan, which was taken over by the Chinese, could become a future naval base that will enable Beijing to increase its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean region.
Beijing has been nonchalant about the CPEC impinging on India’s sovereignty as it passes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region in PoK. But, in recent days, China has tried to assuage India’s feelings by asserting that the commercial corridor will not have any impact on its stand that the Kashmir issue should be settled by New Delhi and Islamabad through dialogue.
Over the past year, New Delhi and Beijing have locked horns over India’s entry into the NSG club, a proposed UN ban on Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar and the Dalai Lama’s Arunachal Pradesh visit.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had said on April 17 that India would have a representative at the BRF.
“Although Indian leader is not here, India will have a representative,” Wang had told journalists.
In a u-turn on Friday, the US decided to send a delegation after initially saying it wouldn’t attend.
Matthew Pottinger, a top adviser to the Trump administration and National Security Council senior director for East Asia will lead the US delegation. And Beijing will be undoubtedly pleased with this.
Playing down India’s absence at the meeting, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press conference on Friday that Indian scholars would be attending the meeting.
Japan will be sending a delegation led by a vice minister.
The May 14-15 summit, which is expected to strengthen Xi’s power base as he gets set to begin his second five-year tenure later this year, will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A number of other countries, including South Korea, France, Germany and UK, have deputed either ministerial or official delegations.
Considering CPEC’s importance in the plan — it is the only project at present with prospects of delivering early results — Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to take centrestage to highlight its significance as a “game changer” for his country.
The Pakistani delegation will have five federal ministers and four chief ministers.
China has already committed $46 billion Chinese investments for various energy and infrastructure related projects in Pakistan.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe will be attending the meeting after hosting his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at home.
From Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara will lead the delegation. Bangladesh and the Maldives will also have official representations.__Hindustan Times