Attended by leaders of 29 countries, China’s Belt and Road forum ended on Monday with President Xi Jinping announcing the next summit for 2019.
India skipped the event in opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), though most of its neighbours, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, attended.
Addressing the media on the second and final day of the event, Xi urged the countries to shun protectionism and enhance dialogue to “settle disputes and resolve differences in maintaining regional stability”.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is not set by ideology. We won’t set a political agenda. It’s not exclusive,” he said.
Xi said that 68 countries have signed the agreement of cooperation.
Announced by Xi in 2013, the Belt and Road project aims to connect Asia, Europe through a network of roads, railway lines, and ports.
Countries like India and the US are sceptical of the project and view it as a geostrategic design. However, China maintains the project is only for reaping economic benefits.
India is dead against the CPEC. The $46 billion corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir that New Delhi claims as its own.
The CPEC connects China’s Xinjiang region with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in restive Balochistan. India fears after gaining access to the Arabian Sea through Gwadar, China will find it easy to sail into the Indian Ocean.
India is heavily dependent on its energy imports through sea route.
The CPEC is the most important of the all the six planned corridors of China’s Belt and Road project.
Citing its objection to CPEC, India on Saturday said “it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The CPEC has emerged as a thorny issue between India and China, whose ties have been under strain over issues including Beijing blocking New Delhi’s bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India last month.
Beijing had been keen on New Delhi joining the connectivity event.