Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping today strongly defended his ambitious multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying China has no "geopolitical calculations" but skirted concerns over its projects traversing through disputed regions such as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Touted as Xi's pet project, the BRI has become a major stumbling block in India-China relations as the controversial USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been listed as its "flagship project". In a keynote speech outlining his vision at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) at the Chinese city of Boao, Xi said the BRI may be China's idea but its opportunities and outcomes are going to benefit the world.
"China has no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocs and imposes no business deals on others," he said in an apparent reference to apprehensions that the BRI in which China is investing billions of dollars in port, road and rail connectivity projects all over the world is aimed at furthering China's influence.
The BRI focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe. India has objected to the CPEC as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and boycotted a high-profile Belt and Road Forum organised by China last year.
Outlining India's concerns, Indian Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale told the state-run Global Times in a recent interview that both the countries should resolve their differences over the CPEC. "This is a major problem for us. We need to talk about it, not push it under the carpet," he said.
About BRI, he told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post recently that "the development connectivity must be transparent, fair and equal". "If a project meets those norms, we will be happy to take part in it. One of the norms is the project should not violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country. Unfortunately, there is this thing called CPEC, which is called a flagship project of BRI which violates India's sovereignty and territory integrity. Therefore, we oppose it," Bambawale had said.
At the BFA meeting attended among others by Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Xi said, "It must be pointed out that as the BRI is a new initiative, it is perfectly natural that there will be different views on cooperation." "As long as the parties embrace the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, we can surely enhance cooperation and resolve differences," he said.
"This way, we can make the BRI the broadest platform for international cooperation in keeping with the trend of economic globalisation and to the greater benefit of all our peoples," Xi said. This is the first major speech by Xi after he began his second five-year tenure last month.
He is widely expected to continue in power for life as China's parliament has removed the two-term limit for the president through a constitutional amendment.