NEW DELHI: Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui has called on India to join its One-Belt-One-Road project and assured New Delhi that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would not impinge on anyone’s sovereign rights.
The Chinese embassy on Monday released the text of Mr Luo’s remarks made to an Indian think-tank on Friday.
“Some people in the West misread China and tend to think that the ‘Dragon’ and the ‘Elephant’ are inevitable rivals, and that China would not like to see India developing. This conception is wrong. We hope to see India develop well and we are more than happy to help India develop to achieve common development,” he said in an address at the United Services Institute.
Despite recent tensions between the two countries, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have opportunities to meet each other on the sidelines of summits to be held by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, G20 and BRICS.
“We need to properly manage differences. As two large neighbours, it is natural that we have some differences. Even family members may have problems,” Mr Luo said.
There was a need to set a long-term vision for China-India relations. “Here’s my suggestion. First, start negotiations on a China-India ‘treaty of good neighbourliness and friendly cooperation’.
“Second, restart negotiation on China-India free trade agreement. Third, strive for an early harvest on the border issue. Fourth, actively explore the feasibility of aligning China’s ‘One-Belt-One-Road Initiative’ (OBOR) and India’s ‘Act East Policy’,” he said.
The OBOR and regional connectivity could provide China and India with fresh opportunities and highlights for the bilateral cooperation. The OBOR is a major public product China has offered to the world. As close neighbours, China and India could be natural partners in connectivity and the OBOR.
“Now the GDP of India is roughly that of China in 2004, some 13 years ago. China leads India by 13 years, mainly because we started reform and opening up 13 years earlier,” Mr Luo said.
He said China and India differed in political systems and China enjoys stronger policy consistency. “India’s political system has its own advantages, but sometimes may cause fluctuations in its policies or at least in its pace of development. As soon as China set reform and opening-up as its centre task, the whole nation is in full sail.”
India still has reservations over the OBOR, saying that the CPEC passes through Azad Jammu & Kashmir, raising sovereignty concerns.
“China has no intention to get involved in the sovereignty and territorial disputes between India and Pakistan. China supports the solution of the disputes through bilateral negotiations between the two countries. The CPEC is for promoting economic cooperation and connectivity. It has no connections to or impact on sovereignty issues,” the envoy said.
He recalled that China and India have had successful experience of delinking sovereignty disputes with bilateral relations even earlier.
“In history, we have had close cooperation along the ancient Silk Road. Why shouldn’t we support this kind of cooperation today? In a word, China is sincere in its intention to cooperate with India on the OBOR, as it is good for both of us.”
The perception that China was partial to Pakistan over others was erroneous. “Some Indian media say that China always puts Pakistan first when handling its relations with South Asia countries. I want to tell you this is not true. Simply put, we always put China first and we deal with problems based on their own merits. Take Kashmir issue for example, we supported the relevant UN resolutions before 1990s. Then we supported a settlement through bilateral negotiation in line with the Simla Agreement. This is an example of China taking care of India’s concern.”
On promoting India-Pakistan reconciliation, China hopes that both sides could live together in peace.
“The development of China, India, Pakistan and the stability of the whole region call for a stable and friendly environment. Otherwise, how could we open up and develop? That’s why we say we are willing to mediate when India and Pakistan have problems. But the precondition is that both India and Pakistan accept it. We do this only out of goodwill. We do hope that there is no problem at all. When the Mumbai terrorist attack on Nov 26, 2008, took place, I was Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, and I did a lot of mediation at that time.”
China strongly opposes terrorism and is ready to work with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the international community in fighting the menace.
Published in Dawn, May 09th, 2017