Realizing that India is likely to skip China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) conference scheduled for this month, Beijing has started wooing Indian companies in large numbers to join the meet.
Large numbers of business associations across India and top individual companies have already received invitation to attend the conference that begins in Beijing from April 25.
Northeast Now learned that most of these associations and companies do not want to go against the Indian Government which will be staying away for the second time from the BRI conference, but some are tempted to join because of the ‘enormous networking opportunities’.
China expects government and business participation from 100 countries including heads of state from around 40 countries to attend the April 25 BRI conference.
That includes Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has raised unsustainability concerns about some of the BRI projects in Pakistan.
Chinese diplomats in India say they expect a sizeable Indian business presence at the BRI conference which will be much bigger than in 2017. These companies, they said, could play a key role in side meetings organized by Chinese business and NGO associations.
Experts warn that China might showcase presence of Indian companies at the BRI conference as evidence that Indian business is largely in favour of the signature global initiative of President Xi Jinping.
“It is both an attempt to show that Indian business wants BRI to happen and also a means to create pressure on Delhi by showing that,” said former diplomat Sarvajit Chakrabarty.
India is of the view that the BRI infringes on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and, therefore, it should not take part in the meeting.
The United States and European Union are also not supporting the Chinese $1 trillion BRI project, which aims to connect Europe, Asia and Africa through a wide network of roads, highways, sea lanes and ports.
For India, the concern over BRI is different. Its jewel project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cuts through Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which infringes on India’s claim on the whole of Kashmir.
India’s Ambassador to China, Vikram Misri told a Chinese daily in an interview recently that ‘no country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity…we have made no secret of our views and our position on the BRI is clear and consistent and one that we have conveyed to the authorities concerned’.
“Connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance and rule of law. They must emphasize social stability and environmental protection and preservation, promote skill and technology transfers and follow principles of openness, transparency and financial sustainability,” Misri said in the interview.
New Delhi did not attend the launch of the BRI meeting in 2017, saying that the CPEC violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The 2017 meeting was attended by 29 heads of state and government, the United Nations Secretary General and heads of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other officials from different parts of the world.
The 73-day Doklam standoff began after India refused to attend the BRI launch in 2017 with Bhutan also agreeing to stay off.