New Delhi: A top Chinese official, Ms Yang Yanyi, currently member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, has pitched for India’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying “bilateral problems with Pakistan should not be turned into a India-China issue”. Interacting with reporters on Monday afternoon, she said China had offered “equal participation” to both India and Japan. She was responding to questions on the BRI, which India has refused to join due to concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Ms. Yang, a former head of the Chinese Mission to the European Union (EU), is currently leading a high-level Chinese delegation including eminent academicians to New Delhi on a visit that includes, discussions with Indian thinktanks on issues such as the China-US trade ties.
Ms Yang also lashed out at attempts (from some in the West) to impose restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei and hoped New Delhi would take an “independent decision” in the best interests of India. “They should feel shame that they use state-power to suppress a Chinese company. There is no evidence to prove there is a security threat (from Huawei). We have full confidence that the government will make an independent decision in the best interests of India,” Ms Yang said.
On India’s concerns regarding the BRI and CPEC , Ms Yang said there was a “historical” issue between India and Pakistan that should be resolved by those two countries and that China’s position “does not compromise” India in any way. Another member of her delegation Mr Zhu Feng, director of the Institute of International Studies at Nanjing University, said China was very friendly with both India and Pakistan, a policy he described as “equidistance” to convey even-handedness towards both.
Asked about frequent criticism of the BRI, particularly in view of the huge debt owed by some developing countries to China, Ms Yang meanwhile said China will “not press down hard”, will hold consultations with countries that have a debt problem and take “flexible measures”. Responding to criticism from the West on the debt issue, she said, “To hold China accountable for debt does not hold ground”. Ms Yang said that infrastructure created by the BRI are valuable “assets”.
She added that the BRI is aimed at “connecting regions” and a “long-term vision”.
On the Huawei issue and in a veiled reference to the West, Ms. Yang said, “some could not stomach that developing countries can excel in science and technology”. She added that Huawei enjoys a cutting edge technology that would “best facilitate India’s dream of becoming a digital economy”.
On American concerns about Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s links with Beijing and how India was looking at the issue, it may be recalled that the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had recently said it would take a decision based on Indian “economic and security interests” and that the matter is being “debated” across the world. India is expected to take a decision on whether Huawei and its Chinese links poses any threat to Indian security and strategic interests. New Delhi’s decision, whenever it is announced, could affect both its relations with China and the US that sees India as a close strategic partner.