China min: India hasn’t confirmed it’s participation in BRI Forum

The Indian government has “neither responded nor confirmed the participation of any Indian officials” at the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing on May 14 being hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and expecting over 90 heads of states and government officials across the world, Liu Jinsong, minister and deputy chief of mission at the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in India told TOI on Friday.

Jinsong was attending a conference organised by the Observer Research Foundation on Friday in Mumbai aimed at enabling discussions on India’s perspectives and geopolitical concerns about President Jinping’s ambitious connectivity project to resurrect the ‘Silk Route’ – the ancient network of trade routes between China and the Mediterranean through Central Asia.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had recently claimed that India would be sending an Indian representative to the summit, although the Centre did not respond to Wang’s statement or confirm its participation.

Over 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe have either committed themselves or expressed support for what Jinping unveiled as the One Belt One Road initiative in 2013,comprising a Silk Road Economic Belt (on road) and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (on sea) connecting Asia, Europe and East Africa. But what unsettled India was the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a core component of the project, expected to pass through the disputed part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Despite India being the second largest shareholder after China in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, instituted last year to fund several BRI projects, the government has grown wary about risking itsborders and seeing the cross-continent network as non-inclusive and as part of China’s own strategic agenda to strengthen its international presence.

 However, Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary and national security advisor, even though optimistic about the infrastructure gaps in Asia that such connectivity might fill, was upfront about the security risks that need to be addressed. “Prudence demands that we prepare for change but the sovereignty aspects of the CPEC are unacceptable to us. We might want to explore which portions of the public routes that the BRI creates – whether infrastructure or connectivity – is serving India’s interest in improving economic integration with the global economy.”
Retired vice-admiral Pradeep Chauhan drew further attention to the ambiguity from China’s part on the Silk Road blueprint. “The lack of clarity on what exactly is the maritime route, belt and road creates geopolitical doubt. Security concerns transcend the military especially since India is the only country with which China hasn’t settled its borders yet.”
Despite the pitfalls, Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of ORF remained hopeful about BRI’s benefits that could serve as a powerful catalyst in infrastructural and economic integration. “Should present day borders become walls? We have a responsibility to change things,” he said, stressing on the need for China to re-project the initiative in a way that would see India’s participation on “equal footing”
Source:- TNN

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