Disregarding India's concerns, 6 of its neighbours sign deals with China
While India's concerns related to China's ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative seem to be on the rise, as it keeps raising serious issues about the project, the countries in its neighbourhood do not seem overly concerned by any of them.
The project through which China wants to build a new 21st-century silk route, both land and maritime, and other similar initiatives which would lead to increasing connectivity with Asian and European countries and solidify its place in the world as a major trading partner.
In India, along with concerns over its sovereignty regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is also seen as a continuation of Chinese strategy of 'strings of pearls' which China uses to flex its muscle in India's neighbourhood. These concerns were the reason that the country chose to skip the inaugural Belt and Road Forum (BRF) event in Beijing held this Sunday and Monday.
But while the country tried to send a message through its absence, six of its neighbours chose not only to attend the two-day event but also signed at least 20 agreements with China, which included taking aids in areas such as infrastructure, power, banking and finance.
China called CPEC a flagship OBOR project and signed 10 agreements connected to it with Pakistan. The corridor which is a part of the larger project, by which China is set to link the Xinjiang province with the Gwadar port in Pakistan and is to be built in Balochistan, passes through Gilgit-Baltistan region which India claims as its own.
But giving little care to India's concern, agreements related to the corridor that runs through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) were formalised, as the Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who addressed the opening ceremony of the BRF led a delegation that included four chief ministers and several federal ministers.
Adding to India's worries, Pakistan is not the only country from India's neighbourhood that is comfortable with the growing role of China, as five other countries- Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Afghanistan- signed MoUs, cooperation agreements and planning documents related to the project.
India maintains that China has not built an environment of trust to carry out the belt and road projects. And the country has complained that while it has raised its concerns at various levels such as the Chinese President Xi Jinping visit to the country during the BRICS summit in Goa last year, they have not been treated seriously.
Early this year, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was reported to have said, "China is a country which is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty... so we would expect that they would have some understanding of other people's sensitivity about their sovereignty. CPEC passes through a piece of land which we call Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which is a territory that belongs to India and is illegally occupied by Pakistan."
Talking on the issue of India's neighbours wanting to join China's project, Chinese scholar, Wang Dehua, Director, Institute for South and Central Asia Studies in Shanghai, had reportedly said that it was natural for them to want to be a part of the Belt and Road initiative as it is a great opportunity for them as they would be benefitted from not only the financial help that China would provide but also the technological knowledge. He had added that India's neighbours may even help in convincing it to join the initiative.