India Stays Away as Sharif Cozies up to China at Belt and Road Summit
India on Sunday skipped the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) being held in Beijing, saying a project that violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity cannot be accepted.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: India on Sunday skipped the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) being held in Beijing, saying a project that violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity cannot be accepted.
The CPEC passes through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India treats the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as its integral part, including PoK.
On the eve of the summit’s launch, China and Pakistan signed six pacts, including one on building an airport at the strategic Gwadar port city, with President Xi Jinping asserting that ties with Islamabad were a priority. The pacts were signed in the presence of Sharif and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
After the MoUs and agreements were signed, Xi told Sharif that the bilateral ties remain "a priority for China" and Beijing was willing to enrich the "all-weather" strategic and cooperative partnership with Pakistan.
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Sharif also attended a presentation made by China's National Energy Administration (NEA) on the construction of Bhasha Dam, a project which he said is of critical importance for the future of Pakistan. Pakistani media has reported China's interest in providing $50 billion to fund the project could generate 40,000 MW hydro-electricity.
The Gwadar port opposite the Mumbai's port housing the Indian Navy's western naval command provides a berth for China in the Arabian Sea and to the Indian Ocean. China has already announced plans to station its marines there as well in Djibouti in Horn of Africa in Indian Ocean.
In a strongly-worded statement issued hours before the opening of the forum in the Chinese capital, India said the connectivity initiative must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"Guided by our principled position in the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative, 'One Belt, One Road' which was later renamed as 'Belt and Road Initiative'. We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in a statement.
Noting that India has received a formal invitation to participate in the six separate forums that China is organising as part of the BRF, he said India is of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality.
"Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities, balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards, transparent assessment of project costs, and skill and technology transfer to help long-term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities," Baglay said.
He also said that expansion and strengthening of connectivity is an integral part of India's economic and diplomatic initiatives.
The remarks assume significance given that China is trying to project that by skipping the BRF, India may be "isolated" in the region as all countries in South Asia — barring Bhutan which doesn't have diplomatic relations with China — are participating.
India's stand on the meet comes after a year of bilateral discord over China's stubborn opposition to its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and a UN ban against Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar. China also protested India's decision to permit the Dalai Lama last month to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as South Tibet.
(With PTI inputs)