Beijing: “Focus on economics, not politics”, seems to be the veiled message of the powerful Communist Party of China (CPC) to India which has opted to stay away from Beijing’s ambitious global infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Interacting with a group of visiting journalists from both south Asian and south-east Asian countries, a key official of the international department of the CPC said political parties in all countries must put the interests of the people of their countries on top and not their own political interests while taking important decisions.
Without naming any country specifically, Director-General of the Asian Bureau of the CPC Central Committee’s International Department Ms Sun Haiyan said, “Political parties in all countries must put the interests of the people ahead of their own political interests.” Speaking about the huge economic benefits that await countries that join the project in terms of employment and investment, Ms Sun further said, “Smart businessmen know that BRI is good for their countries.”
When asked by this newspaper about the Chinese reaction to India not joining the project, Ms Sun said, “Some countries are just waiting and seeing. If the project is good, more countries will join. The Indian government and people are smart enough to decide (on whether to join).”
Despite being disappointed over India’s refusal to sign up for the BRI project, China appears not to have given up hope. Beijing is hoping that with the promise of the project generating lakhs of jobs world-wide, the economic benefits could prompt New Delhi to reconsider its stand. Officials of the CPC have repeatedly assured that “the BRI is not a strategic plan with political objectives” and the “ BRI’s goal is to connect markets”.
With many countries already on board the project, China is pressing ahead but is nevertheless concerned about global media reports about mounting debts of some of these countries which have taken huge loans from China. Scholars belonging to Chinese think-tanks say such concerns expressed by any country “is a problem that China wants to resolve”. Beijing is keen to convey that the benefits from the project would benefit not just China but all other countries too.
India has stayed away from BRI, the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the US$ 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of the initiative, passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir region.