Beijing- India on Tuesday once again refused to endorse Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a meeting of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), saying connectivity projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states.
In a joint communique issued at the end of the 21st Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of SCO member states chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang via video link, India’s name was not among the member states that supported the BRI.
“Reaffirming their support” for China’s BRI initiative, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan “noted the ongoing work to jointly implement this project, including efforts to link the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and BRI,” the communique said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who attended the virtual meeting, earlier told the forum that “connectivity projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states and respect international law.”
President Xi launched multi-billion-dollar BRI in 2013 to undertake big infrastructure projects in the world which in turn would also enhance Beijing’s global influence. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
The USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connects Gwadar Port in Balochistan with Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of Xi’s ambitious BRI.
India has been vocally objecting to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Beijing for its part is playing down India’s objections, saying it is an economic initiative and has not affected its principled stand on the Kashmir issue.
As a collaborative endeavour, the BRI has been welcomed by the international community both as a public good and a cooperation platform, President Xi, who has aggressively promoted the BRI, said in a report he presented to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last month.
“China has become a major trading partner for more than 140 countries and regions, it leads the world in total volume of trade in goods, and it is a major destination for global investment and a leading country in outbound investment. Through these efforts, we have advanced a broader agenda of opening up across more areas and in greater depth,” Xi said, days before he was re-elected as the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party for a record third time.