China is planning to invest billions of dollars in building railways, waterways and highways as part of its OBOR initiative.
New Delhi: Taking on India without naming it, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hailed the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in his address at the One Belt One Road (OBOR) conference, boycotted by New Delhi, in Beijing on Sunday, saying the CPEC was an “economic undertaking open to all countries in the region”, that “it has no geographical boundaries” and that “it must not be politicised”. India, which skipped the conference opening ceremony, had issued a strong statement Saturday night referring to the CPEC, saying: “No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
In an apparent snub to New Delhi, which is opposed to the CPEC (a flagship project of OBOR) as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the OBOR conference that “all countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns”. India is the only major invitee to boycott the meet and this is expected to further widen the schism between New Delhi and Beijing, triggered by China blocking India’s NSG membership and also blocking UN sanctions on Pakistan-based terrorist mastermind Masood Azhar.
Hailing China whom he described as his country’s “close friend and trusted ally”, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif told the OBOR meet: “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a core project of OBOR. In fact, it has been rightly called its flagship because it aims to connect the neighbourhoods of East and West Asia. CPEC makes Pakistan both a conduit and destination for cross-regional investment and trade. Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicised. In implementing this corridor, we are not striving to merely leverage geography for economic prosperity, we are also trying to build a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood. It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations... The CPEC is a project owned and nurtured by all citizens of Pakistan.”
In another veiled barb at India, Mr Sharif added: “Before I conclude, I must emphasise OBOR has gained wide traction. It negates the logic of polarisation and rejects the encirclement of any country. It is about connectivity. It is about emancipation... The fact is that now OBOR belongs to us all — those who are participating in it and those who are not as yet.”
PTI reported from Beijing that India skipped the opening ceremony of the conference after New Delhi’s strong statement late on Saturday that read: “Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, projected as the flagship project of OBOR, the international community is well aware of India’s position. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity... Connectivity must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China is planning to invest billions of dollars in building railways, waterways and highways as part of its OBOR initiative. The proposed OBOR comprises two corridors, one on land and the other maritime. The land corridors will be part of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), with corridors through Central, West and South Asia that will link China with Europe. The proposed SREB will forge China’s links with Western Europe through Central Asia and Russia, and with the Mediterranean via West Asia. Further, it will also ensure access to the Indian Ocean by the much shorter land route through Pakistan that passes through PoK, culminating in Gwadar port in Balochistan province. The second part of OBOR is an ambitious plan for sea routes linking China with Southeast Asia and onward to Africa, supplemented by rail and road networks for which Beijing has heavily invested in Africa.