China on Monday said its ambitious One Belt, One Road project, which includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, would not affect its stand on the Kashmir dispute. The CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is one of the reasons India has stayed away from the Belt Road Forum, a two-day conference on the project that saw many heads of state and top bureaucrats camping in Beijing.
“Regarding the issue of Kashmir, which the Indian side is concerned about, we have been stressing that the issue was left over from history between India and Pakistan, and should be properly addressed by the two sides through consultation and negotiation”, the Chinese foreign ministry said in reply to a written question by PTI.
“The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an initiative on economic cooperation. It is not directed at any third party, not relevant to disputes over territorial sovereignty and does not affect China’s position on the Kashmir issue,” the ministry added.
India had made its stand clear by choosing not to send a representative to the forum, which began on May 14. It has repeatedly said the project did not respect countries’ territorial integrity. “Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs Gopal Baglay had said.
China had earlier dismissed reports that the One Belt, One Road initiative would give it vested interests 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.
On the second day of the Belt Road Forum, China reiterated what it called global consensus for the project that will see the country pouring in billions of dollars to build communications infrastructure around the world. “The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013, and four years on, over 100 countries around the world and international organisations have supported and got involved in this initiative,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.