By Gaurav Sharma
Beijing (IANS) - As India on May 14 skipped China's Belt and Road forum to oppose the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Islamabad and Beijing vowed to conclude the contentious economic route. While opening the two-day Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping (pictured) said "all countries should respect sovereignty" and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said CPEC had no "geographical boundaries".
In a veiled reference to India, which is dead against the CPEC as it goes through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Sharif said the issues of CPEC "must not be politicised". In addition, Xi pledged about additional $14 billion for the construction of the Belt and Road project, of which CPEC is the chief component. The grand project aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of roads, sea links and railway lines.
New Delhi, which had been non-committal about attending the forum despite repeated offers by Beijing, made its intentions clear about skipping the event. "No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity," India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
The CPEC has emerged as a thorny issue between India and China, whose ties have been under strain over issues including Beijing blocking New Delhi's bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India. India's absence at the summit will certainly not be liked by Beijing, which was keen on New Delhi joining the connectivity event.
India claims Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and says allowing a road to be laid through the region will compromise its sovereignty. However, China is continuously pushing for the corridor, which will give it access to the Arabian Sea. "All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other's development paths and social systems, and each other's core interests and major concerns," Xi said. The summit was attended by leaders of 29 countries and delegation of over 100 countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the prominent heads of state.
Sharif, who heaped praises on the project, said the CPEC was open to all the regional countries. "Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicized," he said here on the opening day of the event. Sharif said the Belt and Road "rejected the encirclement for any country. It is about connectivity. It is about emancipation. "OBOR belongs to all of us, those who are participating and those who are not as yet."
Of the six corridors of Belt and Road, to New Delhi's interest is the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar route.