China said on Monday the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) doesn’t “involve territorial disputes” and is transparent, dismissing New Delhi’s concerns that part of the connectivity project violates India’s sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).China’s foreign ministry indicated that it was willing for India to join the BRI later.India is likely to be a high-profile absentee at the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which Beijing has touted to be the biggest event of the year for China.
India has consistently kept away from the BRI – a massive project launched by President Xi Jinping to connect China with Asia and Europe – because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through PoK.
The BRI doesn’t respect India’s “core concerns” of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Indian envoy to China Vikram Mistri recently told state media.
China clearly doesn’t make much of India’s concerns.
“As for the Indian comments on not participating in the BRI for various reasons, I’d like to say that the BRI is an open and inclusive economic cooperation initiative. It does not involve territorial and maritime disputes,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at the regular ministry briefing on Monday.
Lu was answering a question on India’s participation at forum.
“Whether the Indian side will participate in the Belt and Road Forum, I think you need to ask the Indian side for a more specific answer. But here I’d like to re-emphasise that the BRI is proposed by China but it is already an international public good,” Lu said.
“The belt and road cooperation since it was first proposed, it has been an open and inclusive initiative for all countries and organisations interested in this. But of course, if the relevant side would like to wait and see, we do not oppose that. And as for more international organisations in the second BRF meaning that some countries will lose opportunities, you may need to ask the countries themselves which do not participate in the BRF,” Lu said.
Lu said the first forum held in 2017 was a huge success and the success was a sign of BRI’s acceptability by the international community.
“The first BRI has been a success and many practical outcomes were achieved, and now more international organisations and countries are participating in the belt and road cooperation. I think it speaks volumes,” Lu said.
The spokesperson said that during the BRI, China and other countries uphold the principles of “equality, openness, and transparency”. They also follow market-based principles and the customary international laws, he added.
“I think maybe some sides have misunderstandings on the BRI and thus have some wrong judgment. Please know that China follows the principles of cooperation and consultation for shared benefits. Our principles will not change,” he said.
Indian envoy Misri had said in an interview to the nationalistic tabloid Global Times that India has made no secret of its views and that New Delhi’s position on BRI is “clear and consistent and one that we have conveyed to the authorities concerned”.
“India shares the global aspiration to strengthen connectivity and it is an integral part of our economic and diplomatic initiatives. We are ourselves working with many countries and international institutions in our region and beyond on a range of connectivity initiatives,” the Indian envoy had said a month ago.