The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) , which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is not aimed at “third parties” and doesn’t affect Beijing’s position on the Kashmir issue, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
President Xi Jinping initiated the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a roadmap for peace and he has said countries should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foreign ministry added.
Referring to India’s decision to skip the two-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing, the ministry said in a statement: “Regarding the issue of Kashmir which the Indian side is concerned about, we have been stressing that the issue was left over from history between India and Pakistan, and should be properly addressed by the two sides through consultation and negotiation.
“The CPEC is an initiative on economic cooperation. It is not directed at any third parties, not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty and does not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue.”
Quoting Xi’s key note speech in Beijing on Sunday, the statement noted the president had said the Belt and Road initiative should be built into a “road for peace”. It added, “All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s cores interests and major concerns.”
India did not attend the high-profile Belt and Road Forum held on Sunday and Monday because of its concerns over the CPEC passing through PoK.
On the second day, Xi inaugurated the forum’s roundtable summit with around 29 heads of states at the Yanqi Lake International Convention Centre, 70 km from the centre of Beijing, amid low-lying hills and a lake.
At the roundtable, he spoke about hastening the process of connecting regions around the world through infrastructure projects. He announced China will host the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019.
The two-day summit, he said, had reached broad consensus and achieved positive outcomes. The Belt and Road Initiative, he told a gathering of select journalists, will not base cooperation on ideological grounds but will be open and inclusive.
Xi said the initiative will work to ensure an open world economy, rebalance globalisation, and work toward trade liberalisation. It will also boost support for green and low-carbon development.
On Sunday, Xi pledged $124 billion to the plan, and called for abandoning old models based on rivalry and diplomatic power games.
New Delhi officially had ruled out sending a delegation to the forum on Saturday.
"No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity," external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said on Saturday, referring to the CPEC. “Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities.”
Baglay was talking about the danger of debt for host countries, especially smaller economies, which may struggle to pay back loans for infrastructure projects funded by China.
“We are of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality,” Baglay said.
The foreign ministry’s statement, issued in response to India’s decision to stay away from the forum, attempted to explain the principles behind the BRI and to allay India’s fears.
“The BRI was proposed in 2013, and four years on, over 100 countries around the world and international organisations have supported and got involved in this initiative. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain reference to it,” the foreign ministry said.
“In the speech made by President Xi Jinping on the morning of May 14 at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, he elaborated on the progress and achievements of the initiative over these years in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to- people connectivity.”
The statement added: “All these show that the BRI responds to the trend of the times, conforms to the law of development, and meets the people’s interests. It surely has broad prospects. The international community’s warm response to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation also speaks volumes for that.”
China hosted at least 29 heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz, Sharif, for the conference.
All of India’s neighbours, except Bhutan, sent high-level delegations and Sri Lanka was represented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.