Russian, Chinese Officials Nudge India on Belt and Road

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Pakistan’s Gwadar port, part of the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson said on Wednesday that India’s stance on the Belt and Road Initiative is ‘wavering’.

Her words came in response to question to question from a reporter who cited earlier remarks by Russia’s ambassador to India.

‘You and your colleagues asked this question before and it shows that India is quite wavering on this issue of the Belt and Road initiative,’ Hua Chunying said.

‘We believe that the Belt and Road initiative will create more room for China’s opening up and development. It also presents more opportunities for economic development. And it does not involve territorial disputes.’

The reference to ‘territorial disputes’ is a response to India’s concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, that runs through Pakistan-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, a region India claims.

Russian envoy’s words

Chunying’s remarks came a day after Russia’s ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said his country was hoping India and China could come to an understanding over the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

‘We will favour China and India coming to some sort of understanding bilaterally for preferred routes, ways and means of communications, of connectivity,’ Kudashev said.

He was speaking at an event in Delhi to release a report titled ‘70th anniversary of Russia-India Relations: New Horizon of Privileged Partnership’. The report is the joint work of the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and the Russian International Affairs Council.

Ironically, the report itself minced no words in its appraisal for India’s strategic concerns: ‘The growing friendship between Russia and China, as well as Moscow’s appreciation of the Belt & Road Initiative and the plans to co-develop the Eurasian Economic Union with the Silk Road Economic Belt, are being watched closely by India. India has reservations about the geopolitical consequences of the Belt & Road Initiative, as it will serve to consolidate China’s power in India’s neighbourhood. India has particular concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as it involves issues of its sovereignty.’

The Russian envoy’s statement does not come in a vacuum. Russia’s relations with China have been on an upswing partially because of its deteriorating relationship with the US. Kudashev’s country has watched with disquiet as India-US relations improve and India considers joining a ‘quad’ of nations that seek to counterbalance the Belt and Road Initiative.

However, the Russians can’t be too optimistic. For India and China to come to an understanding on BRI will require serious concessions on both sides. At present there’s little indication of that happening.

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