China wants India to play key role in ‘Silk Road’ plan

With China firming up in the coming two or three months a “masterplan” for its ambitious land and maritime “new Silk Road” project, a top official has said that Beijing wants India to play a key role in the initiative.

Beijing envisages an economic corridor linking its south-western Yunnan province through Myanmar to Kolkata as a key segment of a land-based “Silk Road economic belt”, and is also planning to boost ties with

port cities, such as Chennai, through a “Maritime Silk Road” starting out from south-eastern Fujian province and linking littoral countries in the region.

Outlining the plan, Gao Zhenting, Counsellor, Department of International Economic Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the masterplan, which envisages renewing the old Silk Road linkages connecting China to South Asia, Central Asia and Europe, would be unveiled in two or three months.

The plan is expected to emphasise infrastructure projects aimed at boosting regional connectivity, as well as a range of initiatives such as maritime connectivity and ecological cooperation.

“After the “one belt” and “one road” plan is ready, the Chinese government will have further communication with Indian government on how to promote our cooperation in this field,” he said speaking to The Hindu in Xian, the provincial capital of Shaanxi that was the historical starting point of the old Silk Road. Today, the province is among selected regions has been tasked with taking forward the new initiative.

“On maritime cooperation, we would like the participation of all ports along the maritime Silk Road, and priority will be given to establishing Special Economic Zones and industrial parks in these areas,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping first announced the economic belt on a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013, and unveiled the Maritime Silk Road plan when visiting Southeast Asia in October.

Mr. Gao said, “From a historical point of view India is the converging point of the Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road on land. More than 2,000 years ago, India, through the passage of the southern Silk Road had very good exchanges with ancient China. The Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian is a very good example; in the past, master Xuan Zang (or Hsuan Tsang) travelled through the South Silk Road and arrived in ancient India and studied Buddhism there. Throughout the history of Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road scholars and businessmen from India visited China. Chinese people still remember many of their names and stories.

So in China we have a belief that China and India have both benefited from both roads. Based on that, the Chinese government believes inevitably that naturally India is one of the important partners for us to build one belt and one road.”

He said the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) from Kunming to Kolkata will play “a key role” in the economic belt. The first working group meeting of BCIM countries was held in Kunming in December 2013, with a second to be held this October in Bangladesh.

The Chinese government, Mr. Gao said, is also in consultations with Indian Embassy officials in Beijing and is planning a seminar to be held in India later this year to bring together policy makers and think-tanks to provide “intellectual support” for the plan.

On funding infrastructure projects that will form the backbone of the plan, he expected the newly-formed BRICS New Development Bank idea to play a role, adding that the proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank plan suggested by China would also support the effort.

Mr. Gao stressed that China was “open to all countries and regions”, besides the two dozen or countries along Silk Road routes such as India already sounded out about the plan, being involved in cooperation projects.

“We are not aiming to establish a new mechanism or to have our own sphere of influence,” he said. “We are not saying no to other existing mechanisms. We will make full use of existing cooperation channels such as China-ASEAN, BCIM, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the China-Pakistan economic corridor and similar channels.”

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 11:51:28 PM |

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