China’s Xi defends Belt and Road project, India skips event - GulfToday

China’s Xi defends Belt and Road project, India skips event

Lagarde

Christine Lagarde, MD, IMF, with Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday sought to allay growing concerns that his trillion-dollar Belt and Road project was pushing poor countries in a “debt trap” and pledged to make the connectivity scheme transparent.

At the opening ceremony of the second edition of the three-day Belt and Road Forum, Xi sounded defensive in his speech about his pet project that has come under growing criticism for the lack of transparency and indebting nations.

The corridor connects the Chinese city of Kashgar with Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.

At the gathering of nearly 40 heads of states and representatives of over 100 international organisations, Xi said: “In pursuing Belt and Road cooperation everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption.” Proposed by Xi in 2013, the Belt and Road project aims to connect the world’s three biggest continents - Asia, Africa and Europe - through a vast network of highways, rail lines and sea lanes.

China has poured billions of dollars in over 60 participating countries where its companies are engaged in building infrastructures.

The sheer vastness of the project and the money involved in it have caused much awe among many as well as consternation in some countries that see the initiative as China’s tool to increase its geopolitical influence. The reports about many partner countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan being under the burden of onerous Chinese loans under the projects have raised concerns about Beijing’s intent to create “debt traps”.

At the event, Xi tried to dispel those fears.

“We welcome the participation of the multilateral and national financial institutions in BRI investment and financing. And we encourage third market cooperation. With the involvement of the multiples stakeholders, we can surely deliver benefits to all.

“We have also formulated guiding principles of financing the development of the Belt and Road and published debt sustainability framework for participating countries of the BRI to provide guidance for BRI financing cooperation.

“The laws and regulation of participating countries should also be respected. We need to take people’s centric approach and give priority to poverty alleviation and job creation to see the joint pursuit of Belt and Road cooperation would deliver true benefits to the people of the participating countries,” the Chinese leader added. While Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are at the event, India will give the forum a miss like the last time in 2017.

Indian opposes the CPEC and says that it cannot be the part of a project for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India not approving the corridor has become a sticky point in its relations with China.

China maintains that the project is purely economic in nature and won’t impact Beijing’s neutral stance on the Kashmir issue.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday reached Beijing for his four-day official tour of China to “take the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries to new heights”, said an official statement.

It marks the premier’s second official visit to the country since coming into power. His first visit had come in November last year, following which China’s President Xi Jinping had invited him again to attend the second Belt and Road Forum, which kicks off in Beijing on Friday, reported the Dawn.

“China is our closest friend and ‘iron brother’,” Khan had said prior to his departure. “I look forward to meeting my good friends President Xi and Premier Li for an in-depth exchange of views on all issues of mutual interest.” The Prime Minister said that the Pakistan-China ties do not merely arise out of a “convergence of interests” but are rooted in past shared experiences and a “high-level of mutual trust and understanding”.

“This friendship is ingrained in the hearts and minds of our people. It would remain unaffected by any regional and international developments,” he added.

The premier also thanked China “for its strong and unequivocal support to Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, vowing that Pakistan too “will continue to stand by China on all issues of its core interest”.

Furthermore, the cricketer-turned-politician said he “strongly endorses China’s vision of a peaceful world based on win-win cooperation and community of shared destiny and a new model of development envisioned in Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative”.

Speaking about the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Khan noted that the two countries “are jointly focusing on socio-economic development, job creation, as well as livelihood, agriculture and industrial projects, including Special Economic Zones”.

“I am strongly committed to further strengthening the Pakistan-China relationship. I am confident that my visit will be instrumental in further expanding the scope and depth of our bilateral ties,” he added.

Indo-Asian News Service