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China’s BRI doors open to India

New Delhi concerned about CPEC in disputed territory

China is keeping its doors open for India to participate in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development endorsed by the United Nations.

“We will keep the door open on India’s participation in BRI.
China has repeatedly extended invitations to India to be part of BRI,” said Associate Professor Huang Yunsong, Associate Dean, Sichuan University School of International Studies.

“Right at this moment, we really need something promising to begin with; something concrete and subtantial,” Prof. Huang told Press Trust of India after addressing a BRI symposium in Singapore on 29 Jan 2018.

“But India is not interested in BRI at this stage,” he noted.

India opposes the mega development for part of it is through disputed territories between India and its arch rival Pakistan.

Huang, an expert on South Asia, also acknolwedged the number of disputes between China and India, but stressed these should not be used against BRI development.

“There are a lot of issues between India-China since 1947, such as the China Pakistan relationship,” he said. Among others issues, there were growing trade imbalance between the two countries, Doklam border situation, Tibet and Dilai Lama, he pointed out.

But Huang underlined: “China has an agreement with Pakistan that it will not back any side in their (disputed) claims on Kashmir. It is between Pakistan and India.”

On the positive side, he highlighted India and China having taken a more cooperative approach in pursuing economic activities while separately working on border disputesbetween the the two countries.

Noting that Chinese investors, such as Alibaba’s US$200 million, have committed large investments in India, Huang felt India should offer more relax terms.

There are many more Chinese companies keen on investing in India, he believes.

Huang also called for removal of tax-based restriction on exports of Indian iron ore and cotton to China.

While China is keen to be part of the Indian industrialization and economic prosperity, Beijing objects to Indian state-owned enterprises joint venturing with Vietnamese companies in oil and gas exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Spratlys island has not yielded a major hydrocarbon reservoir but remains a strategic shipping routes for which China is a bigger claimer to the islands.

The claims to these islands are equally challenged by littoral Southeast Asian states – Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and the small sultanaate of Brunei. The sixth claimant is Taiwan, which maintains a democratic official name, the Republic of China.

China and Vietnam have fought wars over the Spratlys in the 1970s and 1980s.

Likewise, India is “seriously concerned” about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of which is going through disputed areas between India and Pakistan.

As such, China’s CPEC development is becoming more sensitive to India, said the soures.

According to P S Suryanarayana, a former current affairs editor at Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, China is seeking a third party cooperation in CPEC.

China is also noted for implementing economically unviable projects including Gwadar port in Balochistan province.

Speaking anonymously, China observers have expressed concern about China implementing uneconomical projects under its current bilateral economic cooperations backed by a “Cheque-Book diplomacy”.

“Such approach would not lead to any healthy developments,” said one observer.

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