India is likely to skip China’s mega Belt and Road forum beginning here on Sunday as New Delhi is yet to confirm its participation, though most of its neighbours are attending.
India’s unwillingness to confirm its participation for the two-day summit stems from its objection to the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key artery of China’s Belt and Road project, which cuts through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which is claimed by New Delhi.
Last week, Union Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that India has “serious reservations” about China’s massive connectivity project that aims to build a trade and infrastructure network linking Asia with Europe and Africa.
“I have no hesitation in saying that we have serious reservations about it because of sovereignty issues,” he had said to a question.
New Delhi is not likely to send anyone for the event, a source had told IANS earlier.
Phone calls to the Indian embassy went unanswered.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Indian scholars were coming for the meet.
India’s likely non-participation comes as the top leadership of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar are attending, while Bangladesh and Nepal are sending high-level delegations. Bhutan is not attending.
On Friday, Nepal officially inked a deal with China on OBOR for development of cross-border connectivity.
China’s Foreign Ministry has said that 29 heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, will attend the May 14-15 forum. They will be among the 1,500 or so Chinese and foreign delegates at the event.
Among India’s neighbours, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has arrived along with four Chief Ministers, while Sri Lankan Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe is also attending.
Countries like the US, Japan, South Korea and France have decided to send official representations for the meet.
The OBOR project is inspired by the Silk Road, the trading route of the 16th-18th centuries between Europe and Asia. It is proposed to be a vast network of sea and land routes — comprising railway lines, roads, ports and other infrastructure – across several countries. According to reports, China is said to be spending $1 trillion on it. The project was introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2013 and is seen as his signature foreign-policy effort.
China has identified 65 countries, plus itself, along the Belt and Road, which together account for 60 per cent of the world’s population and 30 per cent of its GDP, according to the Hong Kong-based think tank Fung Business Intelligence.
A joint communique will be issued at the end of the OBOR summit, being touted by Chinese state media as one of the year’s most important international events.