China on Saturday made a fresh pitch of President Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar connectivity project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to India, emphasising its economic benefits.
New Delhi should keep the “larger picture” in mind in joining the BRI, senior diplomat Fu Ying said, indicating that India’s decision not to join Xi’s legacy venture was dictated by narrow strategic interests.
The BRI is Xi’s ambitious connectivity project that aims to connect China with Asia and Europe over land and sea through infrastructure projects like ports and road and railway trade corridors.
Last week, foreign secretary S Jaishankar reiterated India’s concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – the BRI’s flagship project that passes through PoK, making it clear that for India it was a “sovereignty” issue and the reason why New Delhi will not be part of the BRI.
Fu made the pitch on Saturday morning at a press conference a day before the National People's Congress (NPC) convenes its yearly meeting at the Great Hall of the People.
“The BRI and connectivity programs, they are for economic development and also benefit India. So, we need to bear in the mind the larger picture,” Fu, a high-profile diplomat in China’s diplomatic corps and NPC spokesperson for the fifth year running, said.
Asked to comment on the current status of Sino-India relations and bilateral problems at the choreographed meeting with the press, Fu said: “For some issues that cannot be worked out for the moment, we cannot allow them to stop us from moving forward. We must proceed with whatever we can.”
“China and India are two big developing countries. In our respective development (areas), we face multiple challenges to various degrees. We need to be more sensitive to each other’s concerns, so that we can better address them,” she said.
“For the past years we have bene talking to each other and advancing cooperation, discussing differences, that’s what we have been doing,” she said.
Fu did not mention China’s move that blocking India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or Beijing stalling New Delhi’s bid to get Pakistan-based terror suspect Masood Azhar proscribed at the UN.
“Of course there are also differences. Some have been around for years. I also hear China’s concerns; between our two foreign ministries, they are covered in details.”
“For some issues that cannot be worked out for the moment, we cannot allow them to stop us from moving forward. We must proceed with whatever we can,” she said.
“Our leaders meet each other quite often. Our militaries exchange visits and we have set up counter-terrorism and transnational crime cooperation mechanisms,” Fu said, laying out examples of Sino-India cooperation.
She recollected that only few years ago, Sino-India trade was around $ 2 billion and last year, it had crossed the $ 70 billion-mark. And, she said there was a time when only few flights connected the two countries while now, more than 40 flights are operational between India and China.