Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet Friday morning — their first meeting after India skipped the Belt and Road summit in Beijing last month in protest against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will go through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Indications are that the Chinese side is likely to introduce a strong thrust to the One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) initiative in the Astana declaration adopted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which will admit India and Pakistan as members on Friday.
“We are not part of the discussions before the entry, so we cannot provide any input into the Astana declaration, nor put a veto on any element,” an India government source told The Indian Express. All SCO members have, in principle, agreed to the OBOR concept, aggressively pushed by the Chinese side.
With the Chinese President, however, Modi will have the opportunity to raise a number of issues confronting the two countries — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, India’s effort for NSG membership and the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar at the UN among them. The Chinese side is planning to bring in Dangal’s success to add some positive vibes into the strained relations, Chinese government sources said. But much will depend on how the conversation flows.
SCO experts here feel that China will try to push their OBOR proposal aggressively. Daniyar Kosnazarov, analyst on SCO at the Narxoz University in Almaty, told The Indian Express, “President Xi will try to get support for the OBOR before the Chinese Communist Party Congress in September this year, so the SCO will be a platform for him to push that agenda.”
Alexander Lukin, who is Director, Center for East Asian and SCO Studies, MGIMO-University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations under the Foreign Ministry of Russia), said, “OBOR (especially the Belt part) is generally supported by the existing members, but there are also some apprehensions of China in several countries, especially Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan. It looks like India’s presence will give a good counter-balance to the growing Chinese influence in the region.”
Iskander Akylbayev, senior research fellow at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies in Astana, said, “Xi Jinping’s approach towards India will be pragmatic. Both India and China understand their positions well, and why they do not share common ground on issues such as the Belt and Road Initiative. That is why Beijing is trying to engage with Delhi and bring it closer to towards OBOR, may use SCO as additional mechanism to promote not only regional security cooperation, but also its infrastructure global agenda.”