India will not sign off on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project, the Belt and Road Initiative, though the rest of the leaders at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit will “reaffirm their support” for the project in the Bishkek declaration, The Indian Express has learnt. The declaration will be issued on Friday evening.
Sources told The Indian Express that Delhi has once again decided to stay away from endorsing the One Belt One Road project. “All other SCO members have supported the BRI. They recently attended the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing in April. But we will not sign off on BRI at the summit,” a top source said.
India had refused to sign off on the BRI last year at the SCO summit in Qingdao, China, but New Delhi had not issued any statement opposing BRI this year when the second Belt and Road Forum met in April. In 2017, when the first Belt and Road Forum took place in May, India had issued a very strong and critical statement.
This time, as the issue of listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar was being negotiated and Beijing was being persuaded by Delhi, Washington and other countries, Delhi had chosen to remain silent and not articulate its opposition to the Belt and Road Forum. However, India had made it clear even then that they were not changing their position on BRI. The same approach continues, although the Chinese side tried to persuade India to change its attitude before the summit.
India’s statement in May 2017 was very clear in its opposition to BRI, and the Ministry of External Affairs had said connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity. Regarding the so-called ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, which is being projected as the flagship project of the BRI/OBOR, the MEA had said, “No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Sources said the SCO’s Bishkek declaration will be on the lines of the last summit, when it had said, “Reaffirming their support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Member States express appreciation for the joint efforts taken towards its implementation, including efforts to coordinate the development of the Eurasian Economic Union and the BRI and call for using the potential of the regional countries, international organisations and multilateral associations to create a broad, open, mutually beneficial and equal partnership in the SCO space.” India’s name was missing in the Qingdao declaration, and that is expected to continue.