By Tenzin Zompa
DHARAMSHALA, June 11: Adhering to its long established position, India refused endorsement of China’s Belt and Road Initiative at the 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao on Sunday.
The two-day summit witnessed the first expansion of the group, with leaders of India and Pakistan attending the meeting as full members.
A declaration released at the end of the summit said Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have "reaffirmed their support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)" of China. "The Member States express appreciation for the joint efforts taken towards its implementation, including efforts to coordinate the development of the Eurasian Economic Union and the BRI and call for using the potential of the regional countries, international organisations and multilateral associations to create a broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the SCO space," it further said.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a clear reference to the BRI, said any mega connectivity project must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries and assured India's full support to initiatives which ensure inclusivity.
India has been critical of the BRI because USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), one of the BRI projects, violates India’s territorial integrity by passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
In 2017 India didn’t attend the grand inauguration of China’s Belt and Road Forum, condemning the ‘unilateral’ nature of the One Belt, One Road, without mentioning the Chinese project by name.
Emphasising the need for inclusiveness and transparency in connectivity projects, Modi told media, “Connectivity with the neighbouring countries is India's priority. We welcome the connectivity projects which are sustainable and efficient and which respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries.”
India says it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The BRI, a pet initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was launched in 2013 with an aim to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes. President Xi has already announced that China would invest around USD 126 billion for the project. According to Chinese officials Beijing has already signed pacts with around 80 countries and international organisations to make this a success.
Many say that the main aim of the BRI spanning continents and international border is to expand China's influence globally.