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Preparing for summit with India, says China despite Belt and Road forum snub

Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan is expected to deliver a keynote address at the forum to be held in Beijing between April 25 and 27 – a solid indication of how cozy Sino-Pak ties are

world Updated: Apr 19, 2019 13:53 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Beijing
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a press conference briefing on the Belt and Road Summit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on April 19, 2019. (AFP)

China on Friday said it was preparing for a summit meeting with India despite New Delhi boycotting next week’s high-profile Belt and Road forum touted to be Beijing’s biggest diplomatic event of the year.

Foreign minister Wang Yi played down the differences between India and China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s flagship connectivity project, though New Delhi has consistently told Beijing that its key component, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), violates India’s territorial sovereignty as it passes through PoK.

Pakistan’ prime minister Imran Khan is expected to deliver a keynote address at the forum to be held in Beijing between April 25 and 27 – a solid indication of how cozy Chinese-Pakistani ties are.

Addressing a press conference on the Belt and Road International Forum for Cooperation (BRF), Wang all but dismissed India’s sovereignty concerns over CPEC – albeit couching his statement 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 do not target any third country and they have nothing to do with the sovereign and territorial disputes left from history between any two countries,” Wang said referring to the differences between New Delhi and Islamabad on Kashmir.

“Our cooperation will not undermine any party’s position on those issues,” Wang, who is also the state councillor, added.

India had boycotted the first Belt and Road forum held in Beijing in 2017.

Wang continued, as the Chinese foreign ministry always does, that the CPEC doesn’t undermine Beijing’s position on Kashmir that India and Pakistan should resolve it through dialogue.

He deftly avoided India’s consistent argument that when President Xi launched the BRI – and the CPEC soon after – six years ago, Beijing was very well aware of New Delhi’s staunch position on PoK and on any third-party project in that region.

Wang then repeated another stock statement: the BRI is for the common development of all and India should – essentially – forego its sovereignty concerns.

“Now, we are trying to achieve common prosperity through the cooperation under BRI. Those issues (the Kashmir issue) is left over from history must be separated from our efforts in this area,” he said.

Wang – who is also China’s interlocutor for ongoing border talks with India – had advice for New Delhi on 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.

Responding to a question whether India’s decision to boycott the BRF would undermine the new momentum generated by last year’s informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese 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 summit, we see all areas or progress between the two countries and we have a bright prospect for this relationship. We are now preparing for the next summit of our leaders,” Wang said.

Wang said China and India were two major countries, besides being neighbours.

“It is natural for us to have differences. This is only natural. 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 would not for 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 said.

On the BRF, Wang said so far 37 heads of state and governments had confirmed their participation at the forum. Representatives from over 150 countries and 90 international organisations, adding up to some 5,000 participants, will take part, he said.

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 12:37 IST

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