BEIJING: Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not expected to attend the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing next month, India will send his representative to the summit, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi claimed here on Tuesday.
“India will have a representative. We welcome the Indian representative as well as members of the business and finance community to take part in the summit,” he said.
China is keen to see India participating in the event because it will add to the credibility of the Belt and Road programme. New Delhi, however, has not confirmed it participation in the May 14-15 event.
Attending the summit would mean that India is softening its stance on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of the One Belt, One Road programme. India has objected to the fact that passes the corridor through a disputed area in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
India wants a clear statement from China that the corridor would not affect Indian claim over the Kashmir areas under Pakistan’s control, but Wang indicated that Beijing will not budge from its stance on the CPEC. “As for disputes in Kashmir, China’s position has remained unchanged. The CPEC has no relationship with the dispute in certain regions. I want to reaffirm this to our Indian friends,” he said at a press conference in Beijing.
In effect, the Chinese foreign minister rejected India’s case saying that the CPEC has no connections with China’s border dispute with Pakistan. “I want to mention that the CPEC is economic, and for the purpose of serving economic cooperation and development. It has no direct link with political or border disputes,” he said.
India, which is weighing the pros and cons of participating in the Forum, is expected to announce a formal decision soon.
He also claimed that it is China which is planning the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor though many believe that the initiative came from New Delhi. “India is taking part in this initiative in its own way. For example, we have the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor which is one of the major economic corridors China is planning with neighbouring countries. India is part of that with Bangladesh and Myanmar. The four countries are ready to advance the economic corridor within the framework of Belt and Road.”
South Asian countries that will send heads of governments to the Forum are Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Those not attending at the highest level include India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Some other countries in Asia Pacific including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Australia are not sending heads of governments.
China said 28 countries have agreed to send heads of states and governments while 64 other countries will send officials. The event will be inaugurated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. One of the star attendees will be Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Curiously, three of the five members of BRICS – Brazil, India and South Africa – are not sending their government leaders. The other two countries are Russia and China. In South Asia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar will send heads of governments. Beijing has not received similar confirmation from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Most of the major western countries are not sending the heads of governments with Italy being the only one sending its prime minister. Only six of the G20 countries, and six of the 28 members of European Union are attending at the highest level.
The countries sending presidents and prime ministers to the event are: Argentina, Belarus, Chile, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Philippines, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Sri Lanka would also attend, as also State Councillor Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi.