Wednesday 24 May 2017 News Updated at 11:05 AM IST
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Through Beijing's eyes - Deccan Herald
Through Beijing's eyes
Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service,
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be conspicuous by his absence at the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) forum in Beijing on May 14 and 15. India has so far been staying away from the ambitious cross-continental connectivity initiative launched by China.

Beijing, however, has been persuading New Delhi to join the initiative. It has been arguing that the OBOR could provide China and India with fresh opportunities for bilateral cooperation. "The OBOR is a major public product China has offered to the world. It is a strategic initiative aimed at promoting globalisation and economic integration," Luo Zhaohui, Chinas ambassador to India, has said.

In a speech delivered at the United Service Institution in New Delhi, Luo took note of India's reforms and policies aimed at opening up the economy. He noted the 'Make in India' initiative to spur manufacturing growth, the "Act East" policy and efforts to revive "Spice Route" links with nations in the Indian Ocean region, a number of other regional connectivity initiatives and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical Cooperation. "As close neighbours, China and India could be natural partners in connectivity and OBOR," he said.

Luo, who was appointed Beijing's envoy to New Delhi in October 2016, has been arguing in favour of aligning India's Act East policy with China's OBOR since the beginning of this year. It was, in fact, one of the four key proposals, which he put forward to mend bilateral relations, with the others being a Treaty of Friendship or Good Neighbourliness, a Free Trade Agreement and an early "harvest deal" to settle the less contentious stretches of the disputed boundary.

"Like the Indian initiatives, China's OBOR focuses on improving regional connectivity and economic cooperation, especially infrastructure building. It can meet the need of the countries along OBOR and provide India and other regional countries with important opportunities," Luo said.

New Delhi stayed away from OBOR, calling it "a national initiative" of China. Beijing, however, dismissed New Delhi's allegation and also sought to allay concerns over possibility of OBOR being used by China to spread its geopolitical and geoeconomic influences around India.

"China is a responsible major country. As China develops, it is willing and able to provide more public goods to neighbouring countries and the international community. All are welcome to ride on the fast train of Chinas growth," Liu Jinsong, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, said in a speech at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai recently. "It (OBOR) is a well-perceived initiative of lasting importance based on many years of practice. It will not only benefit China, but also countries along the routes."


CPEC problem

The Chinese ambassador as well as his deputy acknowledged that if India was concerned over any particular component of OBOR, it was the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). New Delhi has argued that CPEC infringes on sovereignty of India as it would pass through areas it accuses Pakistan of illegally occupying in Kashmir. Liu, however, sought to counter New Delhis argument.

"Transportation is the basis of CPEC, and the connectivity between China and Pakistan will unavoidably pass through the Kashmir area on the Pakistan side. It's known to all that such transportation could not detour through India and Afghanistan". He also cited the China-Pakistan Karakorum-Kunlun Road that was built in the 1960s and put into use in 1980s. "It is no fresh news for India that China and Pakistan's transportation connections and related cooperation surpass the Kashmir region," said Liu.

China has said it has no intention to interfere in the territorial and sovereignty disputes between India and its neighbours. China's position on the Kashmir issue has not changed either.

Beijing said that it had no intention of getting involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan. "China supports the solution of the disputes through bilateral negotiations between the two countries. The CPEC is for promoting economic cooperation and connectivity. It has no connections to or impact on sovereignty issues," said Luo.

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