Claiming UN support for its controversial One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, China today rejected US criticism saying the project has not changed its stand that the Kashmir issue should be resolved by India and Pakistan bilaterally. “We have repeatedly reiterated that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an economic cooperation initiative that is not directed against third parties and has nothing to do with territorial sovereignty disputes and does not affect China’s principled stance on the Kashmir issue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry told PTI here.
The ministry was responding to comments by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis that the Belt and Road Initiative “also goes through disputed territory, and I think, that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate”. In a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘One Belt, One Road’, Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on October 4.
Mattis’ comments were widely interpreted as the US backing India’s stand on OBOR especially related to the USD 50 billion CPEC which is being built through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India has protested to China in this regard. Rejecting criticism that it is dictating to the world through OBOR, the ministry said it is an “important international public product”.
It is an important platform for China to cooperate with relevant countries. It is an open and inclusive development platform and more than 100 countries and international organisations actively supported and participated in it since it was proposed four years ago, it said. More than 70 countries and international organisations which have signed cooperation agreements with China on OBOR, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, have incorporated it in their important resolutions, it said.
Over 130 countries and more than 70 international organisations sent representatives to attend the international cooperation summit – ‘Belt and Road Forum’, organised by China here in May and spoke highly of the initiative, the ministry said. “This fully explains that the OBOR initiative is in line with the trend of the times and conforms to the rules of development and is in line with the interests of the people of all countries and has a broad and bright prospects for development,” the ministry said.
India skipped the Belt and Road Forum due to its sovereignty concerns over the CPEC, a flagship project of China’s prestigious Silk Road project, officially called OBOR. The 3,000-km CPEC is aimed at connecting China and Pakistan with rail, road, pipelines and optical fibre cable networks. It will connect Xinjiang province with Gwadar port, providing China with access to the Arabian Sea. The project, when completed, would enable China to route its oil supplies from the Middle East through pipelines to Xinjiang, cutting considerable distance for Chinese ships to travel to China.