BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of different countries while implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At the same time, he praised the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which violates Indian sovereignty as a "flagship" project of BRI.
"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," Xi said while inaugurated the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Sunday.
India is the only major country that did not participate in the BRI event. But that will not stop China from trying to persuade India to join the program to build connectivity infrastructure.
"China needs India's participation more than it needs the United States'. It does not serve China's image and strategic interests to establish linkages in distant places while being unable to mend fences in its neighborhood," David Kelly, director of geopolitics at the Beijing-based consulting firm, China Policy, told VOA.
Kelly does not think India would lose much by not showing up. "India's development pattern follows an entirely different rhythm compared to China. India will continue to grow at its own pace regardless of whether it joins the BRI or not," he said.
In his opening speech, Xi pledged $124 billion in financial assistance, which is double of what the World Bank lent in 2016, for the Belt and Road program. The plan involves the creation of six economic corridors including CPEC crisscrossing different parts of Asia and Europe.
Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was one of the speakers at the BRI, could not resist the temptation to take a dig at India without naming it.
"Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicized," Sharif said.
Representatives of the United States and Germany did some plain speaking reminding China of the need for maintaining transparency in project planning and giving equal opportunities to all stakeholders in the allocation of finance and purchase of machinery. China has been blamed for supporting projects that provide business to Chinese companies and banks while sidelining other competitors.
Sunday's event showed China's eagerness to expand BRI into a major trade and development initiative instead of restricting it to infrastructure construction. He offered funds for poverty eradication and health centers in developing countries besides allocating money for infrastructure construction.
Analysts said a major part of the assistance would go to projects that provide construction and machinery supply opportunities to Chinese companies. BRI is at once an economic stimulus for China's domestic economy as it is a quest for raising its international standing.
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