India may well have snubbed the OBOR forum due to sovereignty and security concerns, 6 of its close neighbours have signed 20 infrastructure deals with China in the backdrop of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) being held in Beijing. The six nations namely Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Afghanistan have also asked China for financial help in advancing infrastructure, power, banking and finance sectors, according to an Indian Express report.
India has skipped the two-day Belt and Road Forum citing concerns over sovereignty over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China, on the other hand, has called CPEC a flagship of the ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. China and Pakistan have signed 10 additional agreements connected to the contentious corridor which runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who led a delegation of four chief ministers and several federal ministers, also addressed the opening ceremony of the BRF.
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India has raised CPEC issue with China at multiple forums. The issue was also raised at the BRICS summit in Goa last year, according to an Indian Express report. Foreign Secretary Jaishankar said, ”China is very sensitive about issues linked to sovereignty and we expect them to understand the sensitivity of other nations sovereignty concerns.”
Professor Wang Yiwei from Renmin University said China’s neighbours will benefit from OBOR. Yiwei added, “The CPEC project is expected to solve Pakistan’s infrastructure issues through special economic zones and the Gwadar Port.”
The professor predicted that Pakistan’s economy will take off after the second stage of development that begins in 2020 and by 2030 the country will be an emerging power.
Wang Dehua, Director of Institute for South and Central Asia Studies said, “It is natural that India’s neighbours want to be a part of OBOR. They want access to China’s technological knowledge and money.” He added India’s neighbours may even work to convince India, to join the OBOR initiative.
Yiwei thinks India is becoming more flexible about the initiative adding “I believe India has shown positive signs over a China-Nepal-India economic corridor.