Chinese President Xi Jinping said today that all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as he inaugurated the high-profile Belt and Road Forum which India boycotted due to concerns over an economic corridor that runs through PoK. Xi, outlining China’s vision of a new inter-connected world that his signature Belt and Road (B&R) initiative seeks to achieve, spoke about the significance of various ancient civilisations, including “the Indus and Ganges civilisations”.
But he did not refer to India’s objection to the $50- billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the B&R initiative that runs through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
India treats the entire Jammu and Kashmir as its integral part.
Xi, however, said “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns.”
The 45-minute-long address by the 63-year-old Chinese president came a day after India made it clear that it will not attend the two-day B&R Forum that began in Beijing today.
A clear indication of India’s boycott came last night in an official statement that said India cannot accept a project that violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said in the statement.
However, some Indian scholars have attended the opening session of the B&R conference today, that brought together leaders of 29 countries, including the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who is leading perhaps the largest delegation – four chief ministers and five federal ministers.
Xi billed the B&R initiative as “a project of the century” that will benefit people around the world.
He denied any attempts by China to form a “small group” of nations through the initiative and said China plans to build “a road for peace” and link itself to much of Asia, Europe and Africa through the ambitious initiative.
“Pursuing the B&R initiative, China has no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability,” Xi was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Xi told the audience of nearly 1,500 that the pursuit of the initiative “requires a peaceful and stable environment”.
“We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation; we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship, rather than alliance,” he said.
China plans to project the summit as a global acceptance of the initiative. The forum is is attended by representatives of 100 nations, besides the 29 heads of state and government.
Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif, his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were among the world leaders who attended the high-profile meeting.
Making a U-turn from its earlier position, the US also sent a delegation led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, after it clinched a trade deal with China.
Other delegates included officials, entrepreneurs and financiers from more than 130 countries, and representatives of key international organisations such as UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde.
During the address, Xi pledged to pump in an additional USD 124 billion for projects that are part of the initiative.
The huge amount will contribute to the Silk Road Fund, which was set up in 2014 to finance infrastructure projects.
Xi said the initiative focuses on the Asian, European and African nations, but is open to all other countries.
China will set up 50 joint laboratories with countries participating in the initiative to boost innovation, he said.
Also, China will encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of $44 billion, Xi said.
Named after the ancient Silk Road, the Belt and Road, or the One Belt, One Road initiative, was proposed by Xi in 2013 to chart out new territories for international cooperation.
“Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit,” Xi said. “The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilisation.”
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The B&R initiative also includes supplementary projects like Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, New Eurasian Land Bridge, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.