India hints won’t attend April’s Belt and Road forum

China's Belt and Road Forum

India cannot be a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative as it ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity, Indian envoy to Beijing has said.

Beijing is set to hold the second Belt and Road forum in April and the tone of Vikram Misri, India’s envoy to China, in an interview to state media suggests that New Delhi will skip the event for the second time, marking its protest.

China’s Belt and Road aims to connect Europe, Asia, and Africa through a wide network of roads, highways, sea lanes and ports. Its jewel project, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cuts through Jammu and Kashmir.

New Delhi did not attend the launch of the Belt and Road forum in 2017, saying CPEC violates its territorial sovereignty.

Talking to China’s Global Times Misri made India’s view clear when asked why New Delhi has a complicated perception of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“To be honest, we have made no secret of our views and our position on BRI is clear and consistent and one that we have conveyed to the authorities concerned.

“India shares the global aspiration to strengthen connectivity and it is an integral part of our economic and diplomatic initiatives,” Misri said.

“We are ourselves working with many countries and international institutions in our region and beyond on a range of connectivity initiatives.

“However, it is also our belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance and rule of law.

“They must emphasise social stability and environmental protection and preservation, promote skill and technology transfers and follow principles of openness, transparency and financial sustainability,” Misri added.

“Above all, connectivity initiatives must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of nations.

“No country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the envoy said in an oblique reference to the CPEC.

He also lamented the widening trade deficit in favour of China and demanded more market access for Indian firms.

“The growth in bilateral investments has not kept pace with the expanding trade volume between the two countries. While both countries have emerged as the top investment destinations for the rest of the world, mutual investment growth is yet to catch up.

“Bilateral trade will cross the $100 billion mark this year. However, this figure includes a deficit of $58 billion for India and this deficit has been increasing over the years.

“India has been working with the Chinese side for export of a greater number of Indian goods and services to China. There has been some progress in this regard and market access has been granted to some Indian agricultural products, even though we still need to translate this market access into actual exports so as to expand India’s export basket to China and bring down the deficit.

“In addition, we also need to address the barriers for greater access to Indian pharmaceuticals and IT products and services in the Chinese market,” Misri added.