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Now, Beijing deletes envoy’s suggestion to rename China-Pakistan corridor

Chinese ambassador to New Delhi Luo Zhaohui had also said Beijing had no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan, and that the CPEC project was for promoting economic cooperation and connectivity in the region.

india Updated: May 15, 2017 15:46 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Beijing, Hindustan Times
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,Nawaz Sharif,Xi Jinping
Indian and Chinese Army soldiers at the Ceremonial Border Personnel Meetings (BPMs) on the occasion of “Harvest Festival’’ at Indian BPM hut in Chushul in Eastern Ladakh.(PTI FILE)

An embarrassed China has expunged its India envoy’s suggestion that Beijing could think renaming the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to allay New Delhi’s concerns.

India has reservation about the ambitious project as it passes through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, which New Delhi says challenges its sovereignty by lending legitimacy to Pakistan’s claim over the territory.

The suggestion made by Luo Zhaohui has been removed from the version of his speech published on the Chinese embassy’s website.

With Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expected in Beijing next week for the high-profile belt and road forum (BRF), it would have be awkward for Beijing to be seen tweaking the name of the expensive and prestigious project to be showcased at the BRF.

And, that too on behalf of India, which has firmly refused to be part of President Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar One Road, One Belt (OBOR) initiative that aims to build a new Silk route.

Speaking at the United Service Institution (USI) in New Delhi on Friday, Luo said China could think about renaming CPEC, referring to India’s concerns over the corridor passing through PoK.

“It (the CPEC) has no connections to or impact on sovereignty issues. Even we can think about renaming the CPEC. China and India have had successful experience of de-linking sovereignty disputes from bilateral relations before,” Luo said in a closed-door address to a think tank.

A part of the One Road, One Belt plan, CPEC is a cluster of road, rail and energy projects that will connect Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region.

The address was made public over the weekend with references to the “renaming” of the CPEC and the four-point agenda to improve bilateral ties that have taken a beating over various issues, including the economic corridor.

The line about renaming has been removed but the rest of Luo’s long speech, published over the weekend, has been left untouched.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the CPEC bit was dropped.

The foreign ministry declined comment when asked about the “deletion” at a regular briefing on Tuesday. “According to my information, the Chinese embassy has released relevant information on the embassy website. I have nothing more to add,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

The reason could be that Pakistan expressed displeasure at the Chinese’s envoy suggesting renaming of the showpiece project, which is seen as a statement of strong ties between the two countries.

Islamabad would certainly not like “all-weather ally” responding to the sensitivities of India, its archrival whose influence it wants to restrict.

Luo made the remarks barely a week before the two-day BRF expected to be attended by leaders of 28 countries, including Sharif.

That Luo, who has also served in Pakistan, would have independently made the suggestion is highly unlikely. His speech at the USI in all probability would have been vetted.

The deletion of the line, however, clearly shows the CPEC will continue to impact ties between India and China.

Luo said as much.

“China has no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan. China supports the solution of the disputes through bilateral negotiations between the two countries.”

The CPEC was for promoting economic cooperation and wouldn’t have impact on sovereignty issues.

“In history, we have had close cooperation along the ancient Silk Road. Why shouldn’t we support this kind of cooperation today? In a word, China is sincere in its intention to cooperate with India on the OBOR, as it is good for both of us,” the ambassador said.

First Published: May 09, 2017 10:03 IST