Beijing, March 4 (The Hindu): China today made a fresh pitch to India to join its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which India has been wary of because a key corridor under the plan passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Fu Ying, the spokesperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC), said India would benefit from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pet project.
“The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a connectivity program for economic development and will also benefit India,” Fu said. “So we need to bear in mind the larger picture.”
Fu’s remarks came a day ahead of the annual 10-day session of the NPC, which will approve economic policies for the next year and also likely approve plans to boost BRI.
At the February 22 Strategic Dialogue in Beijing, China once again expressed interest in India’s sending a high-level representative to a BRI Summit to be held in the Chinese capital this summer.
Stressing that India is a “pro-connectivity country” with a number of regional connectivity projects, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar conveyed to China that it was a fact that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative but it”violates Indian sovereignty because it runs through PoK”.
“The issue is not about connectivity per se,” Jaishankar said. “The fact is CPEC is part of this particular initiative and CPEC violates Indian sovereignty because it runs through PoK. Therefore since they are a country very sensitive to sovereignty concerns it was for them to see how a country whose sovereignty has been violated can come on an invitation. We would like to see what proposals anybody has in that regard.”
NPC spokesperson Fu answered a question on the recently concluded India-China Strategic Dialogue in Beijing as well as on recent troubles in ties, specifically the resistance India has faced from China in sanctioning the Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council and in entering the Nuclear Suppliers Group, as well as India’s BRI concerns.
While not directly commenting on the first two issues, Fu said it is natural to have differences but that India and China “need to be more sensitive to each other’s concerns, so we can better address them.”
“We cannot allow issues that cannot be worked out for the moment to stop us from moving forward,” added Fu.
The NPC spokesperson, who is a veteran diplomat, former Vice Foreign Minister and member of the NPC’s foreign affairs committee, said bilateral ties had overall “advanced rapidly”, particularly on the trade front where Fu pointed out it had grown from around $2 billion in the late 1990s when she was working in the Foreign Ministry.
“I thought I would never see $20 billion in my lifetime, and last year it exceeded $70 billion,” she said.
(The featured image above is that of Fu Ying, veteran Chinese diplomat and spokesperson of the National Peoples’ Congress)