March 26, 2018

India may tone down its criticism on BRI, will oppose only CPEC

Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service, New Delhi Mar 26 2018, 21:56 IST

India may tone down its criticism on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of Chinese President Xi Jinping, limiting its opposition only to its key component China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - at least publicly.

With the two neighbouring nations trying to bring their troubled ties back on track, New Delhi may avoid criticising the BRI as a whole in public, but limit its opposition only to the CPEC, which infringes on the sovereignty of India, sources told the DH.

New Delhi has since long been opposing China's BRI, arguing that the cross-continental connectivity initiative should have been "based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality".

India is particularly opposed to the BRI's flagship component CPEC, which will link Kashgar in Xinjiang in north-western China and a deep sea port at Gwadar in Balochistan in south-western Pakistan. New Delhi has been opposed to the CPEC corridor, as it is proposed to pass through parts of Kashmir that India claims as its own and accuses Pakistan of illegally occupying.

A source said New Delhi would continue to oppose the CPEC and keep on underlining its concern over the implication of the economic corridor on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. It, however, might not be as harsh as it had so far been on the other issues involving the BRI as a whole, the source, who is aware of New Delhi's engagement with Beijing, said.

New Delhi is apparently re-calibrating its stance on the BRI, as it seeks to create some space for it and Beijing to make efforts to mend bilateral ties, which hit a new low in the wake of the face-off between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army in Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan from June 18 to August 28, 2017.

Tacitly criticising the BRI as a whole, New Delhi in the past noted that 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".

A second source said that New Delhi might tone down on its criticism on the BRI, particularly on the issues like lack of consultation and transparency, environmental concerns and the debt traps in which the countries joining the initiative might land in.

India of late said that it was open to "any effort" to address its legitimate concerns on the cross-continental connectivity initiative launched by China.

Sources in New Delhi pointed out that India and China were already cooperating within the framework of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for financing development projects across Asia.

New Delhi has been viewing Xi's grand connectivity initiative distinctly from the AIIB, which was also conceived by Beijing but was set up by over 50 nations collectively through a consultative process.

India has not only joined the AIIB but is the second largest shareholder in the bank after China. New Delhi will host the annual governors' meeting of the AIIB this year.


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