China today defended the strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through PoK over which India has lodged strong protests, saying the project has “no direct link” with the Kashmir issue as it was an “economic” venture.
Seeking to allay India’s concerns, China also said New Delhi was welcome to actively participate in the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project, a pet initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“First, I want to say that we welcome India’s participation in the building of the One Belt One Road project,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said addressing a media briefing on the OBOR summit to be held here from May 14-15.
OBOR is the official name for the multi-billion dollars Silk Road project initiated by Xi to expand China’s connectivity and strategic influence in the neighbourhood and around the world.
The OBOR summit has posed a dilemma for India as the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the initiative which passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Commenting for the first time on India’s objections over the CPEC, Wang said, “You also mentioned CPEC, I want to reiterate that economic corridor is economic.”
It is for the purpose of serving economic cooperation and development, Wang said, replying to a question about what specific steps China was willing to take to address India’s concerns to enable it take part in the OBOR summit.
“It (CPEC) has no direct link with (the) political and boundary dispute. Certain sections of the CPEC have raised concern on the Indian side. But these disputes are not the result of the economic corridor and economic activities,” Wang said, defending the project over which India has protested to China in the past.
Economic activities in these regions are not the direct result of the CPEC. China has been providing support to Pakistan in these areas for many years, Wang said.
“This is a contribution China is making for the development of neighbouring countries, it is a constructive contribution China is making,” he said.
“As for the dispute of Kashmir, China’s position remained unchanged. Also, CPEC has no relationship with the dispute in certain regions…if India wants to take part in the OBOR, there are many channels and ways,” he said.
Wang also said China has taken positive note of India’s participation in another project — the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) corridor.
“India is taking part in the project in its own way. For example, we have this BCIM which is one of the major economic corridors China is planning with the neighbouring countries,” he said.
“We have taken note of India’s positive attitude on this. In addition to the BCIM economic corridor, we can also have further discussion of cooperation on the OBOR,” Wang said.
He said 28 heads of state and government will participate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi are among the leaders that have confirmed their participation.
“Although, an Indian leader will not be here but India will have a representative,” Wang said, without specifying who would be representing India.
“We welcome Indian representative, members of the Indian business community and financial community to take part in the discussions at the summit,” Wang said.
In addition to the 28 leaders, 16 Foreign Ministers and Vice Ministers, 190 officials of 92 countries will be taking part in the summit which would discuss various aspect of the project, he said.
Representatives of 110 countries besides UN Secretary General, heads of World Bank and IMF will also be taking part in the event, Wang said.
The summit will have 1,200 participants, Wang said.