Finance minister Piyush Goyal today said we should be focusing more on benefitting from the multilateral lender AIIB, and not to worry too much about its other funding activities like financing the ambitious OBOR initiative by China. “I think we should look at what we can do and what we can benefit from engagements (with AIIB) rather than focusing on what they should be not doing,” Goyal told reporters. The minister was speaking on the sidelines of the third annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is being held amid a heightened interest on gauging New Delhi’s response to the AIIB funding some of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) projects.
The multi-billion-dollar initiative by Beijing aims to building transcontinental roads, railhead and ports linking Asia with Europe. New Delhi has been public with its concerns on Beijing’s strategic initiative and has made its concerns public at various international fora over the past two years.
“The AIIB is an independent organisation, it is not China-led,” Goyal quipped questioned that the bank is perceived to be more of a Chinese institution, given its 31 per cent ownership in the three-year-old bank. New Delhi, which is the second largest shareholder in the AIIB with a little over 8 per cent stake, however, is the largest beneficiary when it comes to funding with seven projects of USD 1.6 billion alredy being approved and there being a pipeline of over USD 2.4 billion in nine more projects, Goyal said.
The issue of the OBOR had cropped on the eve of the annual meetings as well, but the host country was more guarded in its response. “These things (loan proposals) are discussed at the board level and the final decision is taken keeping all interests and viewpoints in mind. We don’t make our stand outside the boardroom,” Goyal had said in response to a specific question on the government stance if a proposal for funding an OBOR project came up before the AIIB.
So far, no project lending proposal linked to the OBOR has come up for funding before the AIIB, economic affairs secretary SC Garg had said yesterday. The government is specifically concerned about the USD 57-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through the Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir and is fully funded by Beijing under the OBOR. Reminding that the AIIB has 86 member-countries, Garg had said no one should feel that the bank “belongs to a particular country” and pointed out that there have not been any OBOR-linked projects that have come up for lending at the multilateral body.
“In a way, it might be as Chinese as the World Bank is American. We’ve not seen any OBOR project specifically funded by AIIB,” Garg said, but adding quickly that New Delhi has an issue with the OBOR. “The AIIB is a multilateral development bank. It is as much an Indian bank as it is a Chinese or British bank,” AIIB vice-president Danny Alexander had said.
He had further said no project would be financed unless it meets the laid-down principles, which are created by all AIIB member-countries and the approval of the board is necessary for any funding. When asked specifically if the AIIB is sympathetic to Indian concerns over the CPEC, he said, “our bank is apolitical. We don’t comment on the internal affairs of any member-country, be it India or anybody else. What drives our investments is projects, not politics.”