China has managed to rope in the US at the last minute for its Silk Road summit besides South Korea, the EU and Japan, leaving India to be the only major country yet to confirm its participation in the high-profile event. The Trump administration announced that Matt Pottinger, Special Assistant to the President and senior director for East Asia of National Security Council of the White House, will lead the US delegation to the attend the One Belt and One Road Forum.
“The United States recognises the importance of China’s One Belt and One Road initiative and is to send delegates to attend the Belt and Road Forum May 14-15 in Beijing,” a joint statement by China’s finance and commerce ministries said. Twenty nine world leaders are taking part in the summit.
The US attendance at the summit was a concrete result of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trade plan, finance vice- minister Zhu Guangyao told media here. The key announcement before the summit regarded as prestigious by officials here for Xi’s multi-billion dollar initiative. The US participation came after the two sides clinched a lucrative trade agreement which will boost shipments of American liquefied natural gas, beef and other products to China. In turn, Chinese banks and poultry will get access to the US market.
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The deal follows pledges by US President Donald Trump and Xi during a summit in Florida to address a USD 350 billion trade imbalance in China’s favour by coming up with concrete measures within 100 days. Analysts say the US participation was in line with Trump’s policy of working out deals by negotiating on key strategic issues.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that besides the US, South Korea, EU and Japan will be sending high-level delegations. “As for India’s attendance at the forum, there are Indian scholars coming to attend the forum,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here today. In New Delhi, Spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry said yesterday that the matter is under consideration.
While Japan deputed a senior leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) along with Vice Minister, South Korea is sending a top legislator to take part in the forum. The European Union has deputed a top official. UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will represent his country.
The forum will showcase China’s Belt & Road (B&R) initiative that has put India in a piquant situation as it included the USD 46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which goes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In the last few days, China is trying to assuage India’s feelings by asserting that the commercial corridor will not have any impact on its stand that the Kashmir issue should be settled by India and Pakistan through dialogue.
The CPEC is expected to take the centre stage at the forum which is being covered by over 4,000 local and foreign media. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend the meeting to highlight the progress of the CPEC which is regarded as flagship project of the B&R.
Besides Sharif, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe will attend the forum while other countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood will be represented by second rung leaders and officials. Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara will lead the country’s delegation, Geng said.
“India is dithering to take part in the B&R initiate I can understand why India doing so,” Wang Dehua, Co-Director, Centre for South Asia Studies, Tongji University in Shanghai told PTI here. “India may be still sceptical of the B&R because it views it as a threat its national core interests,” he said.
“Sooner or later, Indians will know that the only objective of China’s initiative is cooperation and win-win with all foreign countries,” he said. The B&R includes a maze of connectivity projects connecting China with Euro Asia besides the neighbourhood. It includes 21st century maritime Silk Road to connect China with different ports in the world as well as the CPEC and the Bangladesh, China India Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor.
India has reservations over the maritime Silk Road as it impacts India’s security interests in the Indian Ocean. However, New Delhi has backed the BCIM.