Leaders of 29 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and officials of over 100 countries are attending the event.

India stays away from Chinas Belt and Road forum@Marko_Obdam via Twitter
news Politics Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 10:04

By Gaurav Sharma

Close neighbour India skipped China's mega Belt and Road Forum which began hin Beijing on Sunday, signalling its strong opposition to the multi-million dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

New Delhi, which for long had been non-committal about attending the event, on Saturday made clear that it will not participate, saying that "no country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity".

India firmly opposes the $46 billion economic corridor which cuts through Pakistan-administered Kashmir. New Delhi lays claim to the region.

The CPEC, which connects China's Kashgar in Xinjiang with Gwadar port in Pakistan's Balochistan, is a key artery of the One Belt One Road project (OBOR), and is progressing at a fast pace. 

On Saturday, China and Pakistan signed several pacts, including one for building an airport at the strategic Gwadar port city.

OBOR, Chinese President Xi Jinping's dream project, envisages connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa by a network of roads, railway tracks, and shipping lanes. 

The CPEC has emerged as a thorny issue between India and China whose ties have been under severe strain over issues ranging from Beijing blocking New Delhi's bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its appeal to get an international ban on Pakistani militant Masood Azhar.

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April added to the tensions between the two neighbours.

India's absence at the summit will certainly not be liked by Beijing which was keen on New Delhi joining the connectivity event.

The leaders of 29 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and officials of over 100 countries are attending the event. 

Among India's neighbours, Pakistani and Sri Lankan Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Ranil Wickremesinghe are in attendance. Nepali Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara is also present.

Besides its opposition to the CPEC, which India has raised at the highest forums during bilateral interactions, New Delhi in a statement on Saturday also cited its other concerns about OBOR. 

"We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality.

"Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs; and skill and technology transfer to help long term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities. Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity," it added.

(Gaurav Sharma is the IANS Beijing-based correspondent. He can be contacted at sharmagaurav71@gmail.com and gauravians@yahoo.com)

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