Qingdao: India was the only country in the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Sunday which refused to endorse China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative for which Beijing has signed pacts with nearly 80 countries and international organisations.
A declaration issued at the end of the two-day summit of the SCO said Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are “reaffirming their support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” of China.
“The Member States express appreciation for the joint efforts taken towards its implementation, including efforts to coordinate the development of the Eurasian Economic Union and the BRI and call for using the potential of the regional countries, international organisations and multilateral associations to create a broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the SCO space,” it said.
In his address at the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an oblique reference to the BRI, said any mega connectivity project must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries and assured India’s full support to initiatives which ensures inclusivity.
India has been severely critical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the pet project of President Xi Jinping, as the USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India says it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concern on sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China had unveiled the BRI in 2013 with an aim to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
President Xi has already announced that China would invest around USD 126 billion for the project. However, there has been suspicion among several countries that the main aim of the project is to expand China’s influence globally.
According to Chinese officials, around 80 countries and international organisations have already inked pacts with Beijing for the project.
In his address, in presence of President Xi, Modi said India’s commitment to connectivity projects is reflected in its involvement in International North South Corridor project, development of the Chabahar port and the Ashgabat agreement.
“Connectivity with the neighbouring countries is India’s priority. We welcome the connectivity projects which are sustainable and efficient and which respect territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries,” he said.