Beijing: China is deeply concerned over India’s reservations to its mega Silk Road projects and looks to address the issues during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit here next month, as it could be “problematic” if India tries to obstruct them, a Chinese think-tank today said. “India is a bridge for the one belt and one road (or the the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road),” said Hu Shisheng, Director of China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a Chinese foreign ministry strategic think-tank.
Foreign Ministry has previously issued statements expressing China’s wish to link the MSR with India’s Mausam project in the Indian Ocean to avoid any friction. “Chinese government wants to carry forward (the) vigorous cooperation with India,” he told the Indian media, referring to the Foreign Ministry statements.
“If India keeps away it is okay. But China is concerned if India will do something to block it, then it is terrible,” he said adding that if India stands aside, then China can cooperate with Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and other countries. “But if it blocks it and prevents it then it becomes problematic. I do not think India will do that,” he said.
Hu said the Silk Road projects aimed at reviving China’s economy, which slowed down to 7.4 per cent last year, will figure prominently in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s talks with Modi. He said the Chinese leadership will try to convince Modi that the Indian and the Chinese projects have the same purpose and the two can cooperate “to make much bigger contribution to this region.”
“We are major powers and we have the responsibility to contribute more. Infrastructure projects in India can be new agreements,” he said. Asked whether the issue could have an impact on the border settlement, he said “of course.” “We have to address the issue. Development of people of the two countries and rise of the countries is much more important.”
“I think the two government will have this kind of thinking to make some breakthrough on the border issue in the next five to 10 years. From our side this government wants to make full use of Modi’s strong regime. This is critical opportunity to address this ticklish issue,” he said. “So in the coming years, we are expecting another term for Modi them the two government’s can overlap. Then you will finally get rid of this problem,” he said.
Asked about China’s perception of India, Hu said “the hospitality provided to Xi during his last visit to India is really impressive and it touched and moved Chinese people.” “Modi said China and India are two bodies and one soul, which is very impressive,” he said.
He said Xi also feels inclined to build solid relations with India. Last year, the two sides agreed to have more closer partnership. “There will be no big disturbance in coming year because of the focus on development which could be a stabilising factor. We share the same philosophy,” he said.
China has planned the projects aiming to connect itself with Europe by road and sea. It has already announced a USD 40 billion Silk Road fund which will be supported by another USD 50 billion by China-backed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and USD 50 billion BRICS Development Bank.
Though India is a member in both the banks, it has serious reservations over the MSR and is yet to outline its response. India has sought more details amid reports that it is concerned about China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.
India’s concerns were also emboldened after two Chinese submarines were allowed to dock at the Colombo Port last year. China believes India’s Mausam project connecting the Indian Ocean states such as Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka is aimed at obstructing the MSR.
China’s concerns were compounded by the fall of pro-China Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka, as the new government of Maithripala Sirisena has suspended China’s USD1.5 billion Colombo Port City project. Hu said that about 63 projects would be undertaken by the Silk Road initiative out of which 30 will be completed by 2017.