India skipped China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Summit that is taking place in Beijing on May 14 and 15 over sovereignty issues related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The meeting which is being called as the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) is being attended by the heads of 29 states and governments that includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremasinghe, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and delegations from South Asian countries, leaders and officials from US, Japan, UK, Germany and France. OBOR is a project that will create a vast network of sea and land routes across dozens of countries where China would reportedly, spend $1 trillion on railways lines, roads, ports and other infrastructure.
Chinese flagship programme ‘One Belt, One Road,’ a network of trade routes that seek to connect Asia, Africa, the West Asia and Europe, poses a major security threat to India as Beijing is trying to encircle New Delhi by undertaking construction projects in the neighbouring countries under the guise of connectivity purposes, say defence experts as reported by ANI.
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Gopal Baglay, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, “Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being projected as the flagship project of the OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He further added, “Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Here is the full statement released by the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in response to the query on India’s participation in the OBOR/BRI Forum-
We had received a formal invitation to participate in the 6 separate forums that China is organizing as part of the Belt and Road Forum being held in Beijing on May 14-16, 2017.
We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized 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 an 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 the sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India shares international community’s desire for enhancing physical connectivity and believes that it should bring greater economic benefits to all in an equitable and balanced manner. We are working with many countries and international institutions in support of physical and digital connectivity in our own immediate and near the neighbourhood.
Expansion and strengthening of connectivity is an integral part of India’s economic and diplomatic initiatives. Under the ‘Act East’ policy, we are pursuing the Trilateral Highway project; under our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy we are developing multimodal linkages with Myanmar and Bangladesh; under our ‘Go West’ strategy, we are engaged with Iran on Chabahar Port and with Iran and other partners in Central Asia on International North South Transport Corridor. BBIN initiative is aimed at enhancing logistics efficiencies in South Asian region. We are also actively considering acceding to TIR Convention.
Guided by our principled position in the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative, ‘One Belt, One Road’ which was later renamed as ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side.
Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being projected as the flagship project of the BRI/OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.