Chinese President Xi Jinping had a message for the world — and for India — on Sunday as he formally opened the two-day Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Pledging to inject an additional $124 billion into the One Belt One Road initiative, Xi said the “project of the century” was not an attempt at forming “a small group (of countries) detrimental to stability”.
India did not participate in the forum citing sovereignty issues over the OBOR’s flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is being built through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In his opening address, Xi, without referring to India or CPEC, said, “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.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his address during the opening ceremony, made veiled references to India as he spoke about CPEC. “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,” he said.
Xi announced that China would invest an additional $124 billion into countries and projects linked to OBOR. “China will scale up financing support for the initiative by contributing an additional RMB 100 billion ($14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund, and we encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of about RMB 300 billion ($43.4 billion),” he said.
He added that the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China would set up special lending schemes worth RMB 250 billion ($36.23 billion) and RMB 130 billion ($18.8 billion) respectively to support the initiative on infrastructure, industrial capacity and financing. Xi also announced an additional $9.5 billion for developing countries and international organisations participating in the initiative to improve people’s well-being over the next three years.
Referring to the importance of OBOR, Xi said, “Global growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be narrowed. Hotspots in some regions are causing instability and terrorism is rampant. Deficit in peace, development and governance poses a daunting challenge to mankind.”
Xi also made references to India in his speech while recalling the ancient Silk Road. “The ancient silk routes spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges and the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. They connected the birthplaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Chinese civilizations as well as the lands of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam and homes of people of different nationalities and races,” he said.
The Chinese President added that through these routes, Buddhism, Islam and Arab astronomy, calendar and medicine found their way to China, while China’s inventions spread to other parts of the world. “More importantly, the exchange of goods and know-how spurred new ideas. For example, Buddhism originated in India, blossomed in China and was enriched in Southeast Asia. Confucianism, which was born in China, gained appreciation by European thinkers such as Leibniz and Voltaire. Herein lies the appeal of mutual learning,” he said.