An art museum alliance, speedy postal services, pesticide quality control, better accounting standards, preventing theft of cultural property and earthquake risk reduction, these are some of the ways in which China will now help out India’s neighbours.
While New Delhi chose to skip the Belt and Road Forum for the second time, China chose to expand its definition of BRI, a banner which now hangs over a wide and ever-expanding list of activities. The 283 deliverables at the end of the second BRF, a list available on China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, shows that from an alliance of an international science organisation to cultural exchanges, the BRI is no longer a strictly infrastructure heavy initiative.
“In the run up to and during the course of the forum, the parties reached 283 deliverables, intergovernmental cooperation agreements, and practical cooperation projects,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday. He also spoke of deals worth more than $64 billion signed by business representatives and CEO from BRI countries.
In all China signed 13 bilaterals, and 16 multilateral agreements, with Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. None of these were infrastructure projects, a stark difference from the first BRF held in May 2017.
In Myanmar, China’s Ministry of Commerce will help formulate a five-year development plan for economic and trade cooperation. The China Railway Group Limited also handed over a feasibility report for the Muse-Mandalay Railway, a Myanmar-China high speed rail project, to Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport.
With Nepal, it inked an agreement to prevent theft, clandestine excavation and illicit import and export of cultural property. While Pakistan Post will work with the State Post Bureau of China on strengthening cooperation in the postal and express delivery services, Pakistan and 12 other countries also signed a multilateral agreement with The China Earthquake Administration to jointly establish a working mechanism for the Belt and Road Earthquake Risk Reduction Cooperation.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh along with 16 other countries, will be part of the Silk Road International Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries headed by the National Art Museum of China. Meanwhile, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched the Alliance of International Science Organisation with 37 national scientific institutions including UNESCO, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and the University of Peradeniya of Sri Lanka.
With all of agriculture ministries from all of India’s neighbours, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, jointly released the Statement of Intent for Cooperation on Promoting Specification setting for Pesticide Quality under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Pakistan and China, however, are expected to sign 14 more agreements Sunday in the IT, textile and chemical sectors and make headway in railway projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “Together, Pakistan and China are entering into the next phase of CPEC, with greater emphasis on socio-economic upliftment, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation and industrial development,” Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had said in his remarks at the opening ceremony.