As India decided on last Saturday to not send a High-level representative for the Belt and Road forum that began from the last Sunday, which is also called as “One Belt One Road”. According to a report in China’s state-run newspaper, India’s refusal to participate in China’s Belt and Road initiative is regrettable, but its boycott will not affect at all on the cooperation in infrastructure development among its neighboring countries.
This two-day Belt and Road forum initiative have been boycotted by India due to sovereignty concerns over the $50 billion ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ or CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The leaders from 29 countries attended the forum, including Pakistan. The official spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Gopal Baglay said, “Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being projected as the flagship project of the OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position. 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 the sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Baglay also said that India “received a formal invitation to participate in the six separate forums that China is organizing as part of the Belt and Road Forum being held in Beijing on May 14-16.” India’s decision of saying no to the China’s initiative was quite predictable as it was clear about the New Delhi’s position on it which was made early this year, which came when Pakistan signed six new agreements with China, after a meeting between China’s Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Baglay added that India firmly believes that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, the rule of law, openness, equality, transparency and good governance.
The Global Times reported in its report, “While India recently issued an official statement saying it would not be part of the “One Belt and One Road” (Belt and Road) initiative, it will not affect the trend towards cooperation in infrastructure development among its neighboring countries at all. India was openly skeptical of China’s Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hours ahead of the opening of the event, mainly due to concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key project of the Belt and Road.” “India was openly skeptical of China’s Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hours ahead of the opening of the event, mainly due to concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key project of the Belt and Road.
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The Belt and Road is a grand economic cooperation and development plan open to everyone and is aimed at improving infrastructure in countries along its route, thus benefiting the local people,” it added. The article also stated that “China would never force any country to participate in the Belt and Road if it was too skeptical and nervous to do so. It is regrettable but not a problem that India still maintains its strong opposition to the project, even though China has repeatedly said its position on Kashmir would not change because of the CPEC”. “It is strange that the onlooker is more anxious than the players. While India cares about its neighbors’ debt burden, the neighbors appear willing to take on more. As regards the potential debt burden, Pakistan’s repayments will peak at around $5 billion in 2022, but this will be offset by transit fees charged in the CPEC,” it added.
When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang was asked on Friday that whether India has confirmed its participation in this initiative for not, then he said, “As far as I know, there are Indian scholars participating in relevant activities during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.” It was scheduled for 14-15 May and 29 heads of state and governments were invited, including India’s strategic partners like Russian President Vladimir Putin and high-level delegations from Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. As we all know that India has objected to One Belt One Road (OBOR) for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through diplomatic channels.
Two weeks ago, responding to a query in Japan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “I have no hesitation in saying we have some serious reservations about it (CPEC), because of sovereignty issues.” The Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said in January that China has not been sensitive about India’s sovereignty and did not consult India on US$ 54 billion project with Pakistan (CPEC). While answering questions at the second edition of Raisina dialogue, Jaishankar had said, “China is a country which is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty… so we would expect that they would have some understanding of other people’s sensitivity about their sovereignty.
CPEC passes through a piece of land, which we call Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is a territory that belongs to India and is illegally occupied by Pakistan.” He had said that “So, the fact that such a project has been initiated without consultation with India, I would imagine, people will understand what the Indian reaction to that would be. So I think in approaching the CPEC, there needs to be some reflection on how a country like India would see… would feel… I am sorry to say that we have not seen signs of that so far”.
According to the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, Xi said that the relations of China-Pakistan were the main concern for Beijing and it was willing to enrich the “all-weather strategic cooperative” partnership with Islamabad. As per Xinhua, Xi said, “The two sides should not only continue high-level exchanges but increase interactions between governments, legislative bodies, and political parties. The two countries should strengthen cooperation in areas including anti-terrorism and security, and enhance coordination on major international and regional affairs.”
A Chinese official also suggested in New Delhi that India’s non-participation could lead to a situation where you will have “no voice”. The official said, “If India doesn’t attend the forum, the Chinese people will ask questions. It will give a feeling that you’re not constructive. If you’re absent, you have no voice.”