The Indian government on Saturday decided to make its absence felt at China’s One Belt, One Road Forum, which includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, by not sending a representative to the event scheduled for May 14 to May 16. New Delhi has opposed the project on the grounds that it does not respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs Gopal Baglay.
India has repeatedly urged China to maintain a meaningful dialogue on the project. Stressing that connectivity initiatives should not give way to unsustainable financial burden and ecological damage, Baglay said donor governments should focus on transparent assessment of project costs and skill and technology transfer to help long-term running.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Indian scholars were participating in “relevant activities” at the forum, according to The Indian Express. The summit will have 29 heads of states and governments, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and high-level delegations from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar in attendance. The United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are also participating in the seminar.
India has persistently raised its concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. During the Raisina dialogue, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had said, “China is a country that is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty...so we would expect that they would have some understanding of other people’s sensitivity about their sovereignty,” he had said. “CPEC passes through a piece of land that we call Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is a territory that belongs to India and is illegally occupied by Pakistan.”
China had dismissed reports that the One Belt, One Road initiative will give it vested interest in the Kashmir matter. Chinese Ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui had said Beijing could consider renaming CPEC, while stressing that it was an economic matter. His offer was later deleted by the Chinese Embassy from his speech posted on the consulate’s website.
India’s ties with China soured after the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which was followed by the neighbouring nation renaming parts of the state to “standardised” Chinese names. Beijing has also maintained its cordial ties with Pakistan, even giving Pakistan two patrol ships to help monitor their economic corridor and the Gwadar port.