China on Friday said its ties with India had a “bright future” and they were preparing for a summit between their leaders as a follow-up to last year’s two-day across-the board Wuhan informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At a press conference on a three-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that begins on May 25, Chinese foreign minister and state councillor Wang Yi was emphatic that ties between India and China were insulated from their differences on the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Thirty-seven heads of state or heads of government, including leaders from Russia, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as high level representatives from France, Germany, UK, Spain the European Union and Republic of Korea, will attend the mega event.
Mr. Wang said, “The two leaders [President Xi and Prime Minister Modi] had a very successful meeting in Wuhan. Particularly, they established mutual trust and they jointly planned for the future of improvement and the strengthening of the China-India relationship. After the Wuhan summit, we see progress in all areas of cooperation.”
Mr. Wang pointed out that India and China were limiting the threshold of their differences so that overall development of ties remained unhampered. “China and India are two major countries and neighbouring countries to each other. It is natural for us to have differences…I remember Prime Minister Modi has mentioned many times that [we] cannot escalate our differences into disputes,” he said.
“The Indian side wants to put our differences at a proper level in order not to interfere in the proper development of our relations. This is in fundamental interest of the people of two countries and China is happy to see [that],” he noted.
China, he said, understood India’s “concerns” about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but counselled New Delhi not to view the project—a flagship of the BRI—as an infringement of its “sovereignty”.
Mr. Wang said, “One of our fundamental differences is how to look at the Belt and Road Initiative. The Indian side has their concerns. We understand that and that’s why we stated clearly on various occasions that the Belt and Road Initiative, including the CPEC, is only an economic initiative.” CPEC should be de-linked from a territorial dispute that was rooted in history.
India’s stance against CPEC
India has slammed CPEC, stating that it was an affront to its sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Mr. Wang contended that the CPEC did not “target any third country” and had “nothing to do with sovereign and territorial dispute left over from history between the two countries.
He said, “Of course, India has its basic position on these disputes. Our cooperation will not undermine any party’s position on those issues. Those issues left over from the history must be separated from our efforts in this area. I think such cooperation will not undermine the basic position on sovereignty and territorial integrity and at the same time will provide you more opportunity of development and help India in modernisation endeavour. I believe this is a good option and good choice for India.”
The Chinese top diplomat rubbished accusations that BRI projects were “debt traps”. Instead, he said, the mega-connectivity project to revive the ancient Silk Road had generated benefits. The total trade volume between China and participating countries had surpassed 6 trillion dollars and investments had scaled 80 billion dollars, generating 300,000 jobs, he pointed out.
In a veiled reference to the United States, he said, “Some country when it cannot succeed, it doesn’t want other countries to succeed either. And this sour grape mentality is in no one’s benefit.”
An “advisory council”, comprising eminent international personalities, had been formed to impart “high quality” to projects under the BRI banner. “To my knowledge, the advisory council will submit a policy suggestion report to the second forum, which contains many good suggestions. We welcome more constructive voices to the Belt and Road,” Mr. Wang observed.