At 'birthplace' of Belt-and-Road, Modi, Xi to highlight respective connectivity

At 'birthplace' of Belt-and-Road, Modi, Xi to highlight respective connectivity

Two leaders will meet on the sidelines of summit today

At 'birthplace' of Belt-and-Road, Modi, Xi to highlight respective connectivity
With Chinese President Xi Jinping likely to tom-tom his Belt-and-Road initiative at its 'birthplace' in Astana on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too will put forward India's own vision for connectivity.

The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the capital of Kazakhstan on Friday will see both Modi and Xi highlighting the key role of Central Asia in the respective connectivity initiatives of Idnia and China. It was in Astana that Xi had first mooted the idea of Belt-and-Road in 2013 and he is likely to use his current visit to the city for the SCO summit to the hilt to highlight the progress of the cross-continental connectivity initiative, which is now being actively pursued by China, but opposed by India.

“It was during my first visit to Kazakhstan back in 2013 that I proposed the initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt, which started the process of Belt and Road cooperation,” Xi wrote in an article. “Over the past four years, the Belt and Road Initiative has gradually developed from a proposal to actions, and from a concept to practice,” Chinese President, who arrived in Astana on Thursday, added. “The initiative offers an open and inclusive platform of cooperation and has become a global public good well received by the international community,” he wrote.

India remained opposed to the Belt-and-Road (also known as One-Belt-One-Road or OBOR) initiative of China. Modi turned down Chinese Government's invitation to attend an international conclave of leaders that Xi hosted in Beijing last month to drum up support for the project.

“The international situation is undergoing profound and complex changes. The world economy is slowly recovering amid deep-going readjustment. Global development remains a daunting challenge. In this context, the building of the Belt and Road brings us unprecedented historic opportunities,” wrote Xi.

“Last month,” Chinese President added, “the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held in Beijing. The countries represented at the forum agreed to work more closely together to synergize development strategies for greater complementarity and common development.”

Xi has since 2013 been articulating the idea of a “21st century Maritime Silk Road” to revive economic connectivity between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and to link China’s coastline with South-East Asia, the Gulf and the eastern coast of Africa. He has also been proposing a “Silk Road Economic Belt” reviving the ancient link between China and Mediterranean through Central Asia. The two projects are now together called OBOR and Chinese Government has been pulling all stops over the past few years to elicit support from other countries and make it a success.

Modi, who also reached Astana on Thursday, will have a bilateral meeting with Xi on the sideline of the summit Friday. Prime Minister is likely to reiterate to Chinese President that India appreciated the “compelling logic of regional connectivity for peace, progress and prosperity” and “believe that connectivity must be strengthened”.

He will highlight India is engaged with Iran on Chabahar Port project for connectivity to Central Asia and Europe. India is also participating with Russia, Iran and Central Asian nations on International North South Transport Corridor, keen to clinch a trade deal with Eurasia Economic Union and decided to accede to Ashgabat Agreement, which facilitates transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Modi, however, would also stress that connectivity initiatives should be “based on dialogue and consent of all parties concerned with due respect to sovereignty”, sources told the DH in New Delhi.

New Delhi argues out that it was not consulted by Beijing before China launched its OBOR initiative, which would include an economic corridor proposed to pass through areas it accuses Pakistan of illegally occupying in Kashmir and thus would infringe upon sovereignty of India.

No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity, Modi is likely to convey to Xi and other SCO leaders during his visit to Astana. The SCO will on Friday formally grant membership to India and Pakistan, which were earlier observers to the bloc and had no say on the outcome doccuments issued by the bloc after the summits.

The declarations issued by the SCO leaders after summits in the previous years extended support to the OBOR initiative of China. This time, however, India, being a full member of the bloc, will insist on dropping any such reference in the Astana Declaration, which will be issued after the summit on Friday, sources in New Delhi said.