Beijing: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi implicitly criticised China’s connectivity projects for “overriding sovereignty” of other nations, Beijing said its corridor through Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) was neither aimed at India nor reflective of its position on Kashmir.
Speaking at the inauguration of the second Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, the PM said “connectivity in itself cannot override or undermine the sovereignty of other nations”.
“Only by respecting the sovereignty of countries involved, can regional connectivity corridors fulfill their promise and avoid differences and discord,” he said, in remarks interpreted by some analysts as criticism of Chinese connectivity projects such as the “Belt and Road”.
India isn’t among the 60 countries that have endorsed the plan, in part because China under the initiative is building an economic corridor to Pakistan through PaK.
Meanwhile, China defended the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Wednesday when asked about the PM’s comments on connectivity and sovereignty.
“In his remarks Prime Minister Modi did not directly mention the CPEC,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. “Regarding CPEC, this is a project that is devised for long term development and cooperation in various fields. It is of great significance in regional connectivity and trade cooperation. It is for regional peace and development.”
The project, she added, “targets no third country and it will not affect China’s position on Kashmir.”
China has told India that its “purely commercial” projects were “without prejudice” to its views on the disputed status of PaK, which was for India and Pakistan to resolve. India, however, has pointed to China’s own objections of exploration projects in the disputed South China Sea, suggesting Beijing was applying a different standard.
On Tuesday, the PM was largely optimistic about the future of relations with Beijing, stressing that it was “not unnatural for two large neighbouring powers to have some differences.”
This sentiment was reciprocated by Beijing on Wednesday. Hua of the Foreign Ministry said that in China’s view “in the management of our relationship and for peace and progress in the region, both our countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other’s core concerns and interests”.
“In this process China has been committed to respect the core interests and major concerns of each other and enhancing mutual interest and promoting cooperation. For the differences and problems we are clear that we will remain in touch with India and properly manage these differences and resolve them through friendly consultation,” she said.
Asked about the persisting differences on India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its bid to sanction the Pakistani militant leader Masood Azhar at the UNSC sanctions committee, Hua reiterated that China did not see them as “bilateral issues”, but added that it was Beijing’s desire to “resolve these differences through friendly consultation instead of pointing fingers at each other and accusing the other of neglecting their core interests.”