India warns Pakistan, others about BRI debt trap

Last Updated 18 January 2018, 18:57 IST

India on Thursday tacitly warned Pakistan and other nations joining the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) of China that the cross-continental connectivity project would make them dependent on the communist country.

New Delhi also stressed that the global community must not allow Beijing to disrupt international rules while pushing its Belt-and-Road Initiative.

"The issue is really not of any individual project but the standards you set, the processes that you follow, the rules that you apply," Vijay Gokhale, Secretary (Economic Relations) at the Ministry of External Affairs, said, without directly referring to China or its BRI. "If you have players who come in and set entirely different set of rules, who set a different set of standards in many countries where there are no standards, where there are weak rules where there are weak procedures, you automatically create the infrastructure or ecosystem for dependency."

Gokhale, who was India's envoy to China till September 2017, is set to take over as foreign secretary later this month, succeeding S Jaishankar.

He was speaking on 'Contested Connectivity: Economic Tracks - Political Cargo?' at the Raisina Dialogue, which was held by Delhi-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation with support from the Ministry of External Affairs.

New Delhi has been opposing the BRI and particularly its key component, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the CPEC.

Gokhale  articulated five parameters on which any project for international connectivity should be assessed: 'Is this process demand-driven? Is the process consultative? Does the process allow open and fair competition? Does the process build on the multilateral framework that already exists? Is the process consonant with principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity?"

"I think the real issue is not whether Africa or any other continent will become dependent on any country, but what the rest of the world is going to do to ensure that there is certain rule setting and that rule setting globally is not disrupted, because any one country or any group of countries or any other institution for that matter decides that it has its own set of rules and then proceeds to do this regardless," said the secretary (ER) at the MEA.

His comments came at a time when China's BRI came under criticism for putting the smaller participating nations at the risk of being caught in a debt trap.

One of the reasons New Delhi cited for staying away from the BRI was that Beijing did not hold any consultation with India before embarking on it. The CPEC is proposed to pass through areas New Delhi claims to be integral parts of Jammu and Kashmir state of India and accuses Islamabad of illegally occupying. New Delhi has been accusing Beijing of infringing on sovereignty of India by joining Pakistan for the CPEC project.

(Published 18 January 2018, 16:06 IST)

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