The Ministry of External Affairs, however, has not officially commented today on participation in the meeting
NEW DELHI: With a day to go for China’s big “One Belt One Road” summit, NDTV has learnt that India is unlikely to send any representative, in effect a boycott of Beijing’s ambitious initiative for cross border connectivity through ports, railways and roads. Part of the project runs through Pakistan occupied Kashmir, called the CPEC (the China Pakistan Economic Corridor), which India has strongly objected to on grounds that PoK is a part of India, not Pakistan.
However the Ministry of External Affairs has not officially commented today on participation in the meeting even though there is less than a day left for it to begin.
India’s boycott comes as Nepal confirmed its’s participation in the meeting on Friday. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are already attending. The US too has decided to attend, marking a U-turn in its position.
Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said no decision had been taken on whether an Indian government delegation would attend the meeting. “The matter is under consideration,” he said, a position the government has maintained since March when China extended an invitation. Since then, Beijing has stepped up efforts to get India to attend.
India’s main objection to China’s plan to build ports, railways and power links across Asia and on to Europe is that the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of the plan, runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
Mr Baglay said India supports connectivity across the region, but there is a problem with the Pakistan end of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) – a term widely used to describe the project.
“As far as OBOR is concerned, you know that our position is that since the so-called CPEC forms a part of OBOR, that is where our difficulty is,” he said. “It passes or proposes to pass through what is sovereign Indian territory and we have made our views in this regard very, very clear to the Chinese side.”
But the “Belt and Road” initiative involving hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming decades could also cement China’s dominance over Asia, including in India’s neighbourhood.
Leaders of 29 countries plus senior delegates from other nations gather in Beijing for a two-day summit starting on Sunday to map out a project that is seen as broad on ambition but short on specifics.
China’s economy is nearly five times the size of India’s.
India, which is Asia’s third largest economy behind China and Japan, sits near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. For Delhi not to be part of the continent-wide project presents a headache for both China and India.
China’s ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, told an Indian military think-tank in New Delhi last week that while India has reservations about the China-Pakistan corridor, Beijing has no wish to get involved in territorial disputes between India and Pakistan.
Delhi is upset over China’s refusal to allow it entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global cartel that controls nuclear trade, and over Beijing blocking a request at the UN to sanction Masood Azhar, the Pakistan-based head of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has attacked military bases in India.
Beijing is angry at India’s increasing public engagement with the Dalai Lama, including hosting the Tibetan spiritual leader last month in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as South Tibet.
China has also grown wary of India’s military cooperation with the United States, as well as with Japan in recent months.
Some Indian officials and experts have urged India not to miss out on opportunities presented by the initiative to boost transport and trade links.
Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said the border state could benefit from the Chinese project as it would boost economic activity.