India to attend Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, says China
India will send an official representative to the high-profile Belt and Road Forum (BRF) to be held in Beijing in May, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday amid unease in New Delhi over the ambitious project passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Announcing India’s participation in the forum to promote President Xi Jinping’s pet project, Wang attempted to assuage New Delhi by saying that none of the projects in PoK had any link with territorial disputes in the region.
“As for disputes in Kashmir, China's position has remained unchanged. The CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) has no relationship with the dispute in certain regions. I want to reaffirm this to our Indian friends,” Wang told a special briefing on BRF on Tuesday morning.
India has stayed away from Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), partly because of CPEC, which Indian officials have repeatedly said is a “sovereignty” issue.
Wang, however, confirmed India will send a representative to the forum.
“Although the Indian leader will not be here, India will have a representative. We welcome the Indian representative as well as members of the business and finance community to take part in the summit,” he said.
The Indian embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to Wang’s statement.
Wang said the CPEC has no bearing on China's stand on Kashmir, that Beijing did not take sides and it was for India and Pakistan to resolve the issue.
“I want to mention that the CPEC is economic, and for the purpose of serving economic cooperation and development. It has no direct link with political or border disputes,” he said.
“Certain sections of the CPEC have raised concerns on the Indian side but these disputes are not the result of the economic corridor and the economic activities in this region are not the direct result of CPEC. China has been providing support to Pakistan in these areas for many, many years. This is a contribution China is making for development of our neighbouring countries.”
Wang added that China welcomes India's participation in building the BRI. “Both are developing countries and the most important task for us is to speed up development so that our peoples will live a better life,” he said.
Wang stressed the development quotient of the BRI: “The Belt and Road is for the purpose of common development of all participants. We will provide opportunities for participants to build on their complementarity, including investments in infrastructure. So we welcome India to take an active part in building the Belt and Road.”
The BRI, floated by Xi in 2013, envisages building land and sea routes to connect China with Asia and Europe.
According to Wang, 28 heads of state and government, including from Russia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have confirmed their participation in the forum.