Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said India does not view its relations with China through the prism of China-Pakistan ties. She, however, ruled out the possibility of New Delhi reviewing its stand on CPEC project, a major stumbling block in Sino-Indian relationship.
Speaking at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of ‘Chennai Centre for China Studies’, the minister said, “One thing I want to assure here…we do not view our relations with China through the prism of China-Pakistan relations.”
The defence minister also mentioned that New Delhi is alert to the economic assistance provided by China to India’s neighbours and ramifications it could have for the country. She also brought up the issue of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and made it clear that India will not “entertain any thought” of reviewing its stand on it, as it concerned its sovereignty. “It is an issue of sovereignty, and we shall not entertain any thought (other than the stated Indian position) on that matter,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
The ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a combination of projects that are aimed at upgrading infrastructure in Pakistan and consolidating the economic ties between the two countries. The corridor will link Gwadar in south-western Pakistan to China’s Xinjiang province, and would pass through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, a territory India claims as its own.
“The kind of economic assistance being extended to many of our neighbours are all very clearly impacting the economies there, probably helping to bond a relationship with those countries. As a result, even a strategic presence could be enabled. I see a linkage. This is something which I think all of us, you (Chennai Centre for China Studies) as a think tank, and we as a government, constantly be alert to and understand its ramifications,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.
Arguing that Pakistani military was becoming increasingly dependent on the Chinese for arms and equipment, the defence minister said, “The focus of the reforms is therefore evidently moving towards the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy, PLA Airforce and PLA Rocket Forces as opposed to the erstwhile emphasis on just the PLA.”
While noting that a “fundamental reorientation” of the China-Pakistan relations was not likely, Sitharaman said that through last month’s informal summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping both countries will immensely benefit from it.
Sitharaman also talked of a greater interactive forum in Sino-India relations and urged for a hotline between the two countries.
The hotline, she said, would reduce the time consumed in reaching the empowered decision makers in times of confrontation at the ground level. “We have certainly underlined the fact that the border personnel meet, flag officer meet can all happen. But we need to have a better hotline that would easily help us in being ready for a (conflict) resolution in a short time,” she said.
(With PTI inputs)