Chinese vice-foreign minister downplays India's refusal to endorse BRI, says both sides agree in principle on connectivity

Wuhan: India and China will enhance policy coordination in their cooperation with neighbouring countries following the just-concluded informal summit in Wuhan between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, a top Chinese official has said.

Modi and Xi concluded their first ever two-day India-China informal summit on Saturday raising hopes of improving relations in light of last year's tensions on a host of issues including the Doka La military standoff.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together in Wuhan, China. AP

“The two sides will enhance policy coordination in their neighbourhood to discuss cooperation in the form of China-India plus one or China-India plus X”, Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said briefing newsmen in Wuhan on Saturday about the summit outcome.

Kong did not elaborate but his comments come in the backdrop of India's concerns over increasing presence of Chinese investments in India's neighbourhood especially infrastructure projects like ports.

China has been stepping up its investments in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives besides Pakistan where it is investing heavily in the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

India has protested to China over the CPEC as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

India did not endorse the Belt and Road Initiative at the foreign ministers' meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Beijing on 24 April which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also attended.

"The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan reiterated their support for the BRI proposed by China," said a statement issued by the SCO foreign ministers at the end of their one-day meeting.

India's name was conspicuously absent from the list of countries that endorsed BRI of which CPEC is a part.

Significantly, Kong has played down India-China differences on the BRI stating that Beijing will “not be too hard on it” (BRI) as “we feel that there is no fundamental difference between China and India on the issue of supporting interconnectivity," he said.

He referred to India's participation in the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor which is also part of the BRI.

“When it comes to connectivity our impression is that China and India do not have principle disagreement. Actually, the two countries are working on the BCIM which is an important part of BRI and for the BCIM corridor, India does not oppose it. Actually, it is an important partner in this cooperation. At the same time BCIM is progressing very smoothly," he said.

Kong also referred to India's participation in the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in which India is the second largest shareholder after China.

Kong said the two countries indeed are expanding their cooperation on connectivity.

After the summit, the two countries have agreed to develop a project jointly in war-torn Afghanistan, officials sources said after the summit.

This could send a strong signal of their cooperation in the neighbourhood.

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Updated Date: Apr 29, 2018 20:15 PM

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