China challenges India to explain ‘meaningful dialogue’ on Belt and Road Initiative

China has asked India to clarify its call for a “meaningful dialogue” on the Belt and Road Initiative while noting that the doors will be always be open for New Delhi to join the project.
Leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum wave as they pose for a group photo at Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of Beijing, China, on May 15, 2017.(Reuters)
Leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum wave as they pose for a group photo at Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of Beijing, China, on May 15, 2017.(Reuters)
Updated on May 16, 2017 07:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

China on Tuesday challenged India to clarify its call for a “meaningful dialogue” on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) despite Beijing saying that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an economic project with no implications for the Kashmir issue.

China’s foreign ministry also said the “doors” for India to join the BRI would always be open.

Explaining the reasons behind India’s decision to skip the two-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) that ended in Beijing on Monday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay had said: “Guided by our principled position on the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative…We are awaiting a response from the Chinese side.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded to Baglay’s remarks at a regular briefing on Tuesday: “I do not know what the Indian spokesperson was trying to say. What kind of dialogue is meaningful dialogue? What kind of positive attitude does the spokesman want China to hold?

“I think our position has been clear and we are always waiting. If they have the answer, they can give me the answer in a public or private way,” Hua said. She added India is always welcome to join the BRI but it depends on the country’s attitude towards the mega-connectivity project.

“China welcomes the participation of India to the BRI, the answer is clear,” she said. “Now it depends on what attitude the Indian side holds."

The CPEC is not about “conflict” with any side but for regional peace and prosperity, she said.

The CPEC, a cluster of road, rail and energy projects, will connect Pakistan's southern Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and Kashgar in China's far western Xinjiang province.

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

“No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Baglay had said in a statement on Saturday night.

Hua pointed to the participation of 130 countries in the Belt and Road Forum, indicating the initiative had received a warm response from many nations. “Our door will always remain open and we will always welcome the participation of the Indian side,” she added.

Hua also questioned India’s call for more dialogue on the issue by pointing out the initiative was based on consultations.

“Over the past four years since we proposed the BRI, we have always held the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Our ideas and actions are clear to all, and you can see that from the response from the international community,” she said.

“The international community, especially those participants showed a very response to the forum...In his speech, President Xi Jinping said the BRI will be built as a peace road and countries should respect the sovereignty and integrity and core interests (of other nations),” she said.

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