China stresses cooperation, ties after India boycotts BRI forum
China said on Friday that it is preparing for a summit with India despite New Delhi skipping next week’s Belt and Road Forum, billed as the biggest event in Beijing’s diplomatic calendar for the year.
State Councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi, played down differences between the two sides on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s flagship connectivity project. New Delhi has consistently told Beijing a key component of BRI, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), violates India’s territorial sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Addressing a news conference on the second Belt and Road Forum to be held in Beijing during April 25-27, Wang all but dismissed India’s sovereignty concerns over CPEC, but couched his remarks in diplomatic jargon. “One of our differences is how to look at the BRI. The Indian side has its concerns. We understand that and that is why we have stated clearly on many occasions that the BRI, including the CPEC, is only an economic initiative and does not target any third country and they have nothing to do with sovereign and territorial disputes left from history between any two countries,” Wang said, referring to differences between New Delhi and Islamabad over Kashmir.
“Our cooperation will not undermine any party’s position on those issues,” he said.
Responding to a question on whether India’s decision to boycott the forum will undermine momentum generated by last year’s informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, Wang said the two leaders had a very successful meeting at Wuhan.
“Particularly, they have established mutual trust between the leadership and they jointly planned for the future of improvement and strengthening of China-India relations,” he said. After the Wuhan meet, there had been progress in all areas between the two countries and a “bright prospect” for bilateral ties, he said, adding: “We are now preparing for the next summit of our leaders.”
Wang contended – as China’s foreign ministry always does – that CPEC doesn’t undermine Beijing’s position that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.
He deftly avoided India’s consistent argument that when Xi launched the BRI – and CPEC soon after – six years ago, Beijing was aware of New Delhi’s position on PoK and any third party project in that region.
Wang then repeated another stock statement: The BRI is for common development of all and India should – essentially – forego its sovereignty concerns.
“Now, we are trying to achieve common prosperity through cooperation under BRI. Those issues (the Kashmir issue) left over from history must be separated from our efforts in this area,” he said.
Wang – who is also China’s interlocutor for with India on the disputed border – had some advice for New Delhi on the BRI.
“I think such cooperation will not undermine your basic position on sovereignty and territorial integrity and, at the same time, provide you with more opportunities for development and help India in your modernisation endeavour. I believe this is a good option and good choice for India,” he said. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to deliver a keynote address at the forum, an indication of how cozy Sino-Pakistan ties are.
India had also boycotted the first Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in 2017. Wang said it was “natural” for China and India to have differences. “I remember Prime Minister Modi mentioning many times that we cannot escalate our differences into disputes. Indian side wants to put our difference at a proper level and it (won’t allow) it to interfere in the development of our relations,” he said.
“I believe this is in the fundamental interest of the people of the two countries and that is what China is happy to see,” he added. Wang said 37 heads of state and government had confirmed their participation in the forum. Some 5,000 participants from 150 countries and 90 international organisations will take part, he said.
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