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PM Modi offered Xi Indo-Pacific connect in response to BRI offer

Prime Minister Modi's offer to Xi Jinping came at the recently concluded informal summit between the two. India is opposed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key part of the BRI, as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 16, 2019, 10.14 AM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the just concluded second edition of the informal summit deftly handled President Xi Jinping’s suggestion for India's entry into Maritime Silk Route, a key segment of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and instead suggested China be part of India’s Indo-Pacific vision through proposed maritime connectivity between Chennai and Chinese ports.

The reference to rules-based international order in the statement issued by India following the summit was a delicate attempt to change Beijing’s aggressive approach as witnessed in last few years and balance the BRI, which is widely viewed as China’s grand strategy to challenge the current world order.

“Both leaders shared the view that the international situation is witnessing significant readjustment. They were of the view that India and China share the common objective of working for a peaceful, secure and prosperous world in which all countries can pursue their development within a rules-based international order,” said the foreign ministry statement issued after the summit, without elaboration.

Without directly referring to the BRI (reportedly due to India’s sensitivities on the issue) Xi during the summit called for writing a new chapter of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) through a Chennai-China connect, ET has learnt. India, however, made it clear that rules-based international order should be pursued and the Chennai-China connection will be pursued within the Indo-Pacific vision of Delhi, which is inclusive in nature and not directed against any country.

The MSR is a key pillar of the BRI and India has been opposed to the BRI as China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC), the crown jewel of the mega connectivity initiative, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Besides, India is wary over opacity of funding of BRI projects, which pushes countries towards a debt trap, and the end objective of the grand strategy. India did not attend the first and second BRI summits held in Beijing in 2017 and 2019.

It is understood that India and China could be exploring maritime connectivity between Chennai and China on the lines of the Chennai-Vladivostok shipping connect (this link which was snapped after the breakup of the Soviet Union is being revived and will be a key element in the Indo-Russia partnership in the Indo-Pacific region).

“The two leaders exchanged views on the age-old commercial linkages and people-to-people contacts between India and China in the past two millennia, including significant maritime contacts. In this regard, the two leaders agreed on establishment of sister-state relations between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province, exploring the possibility of establishing an academy to study links between Mahabalipuram and Fujian province on the lines of the experience between Ajanta and Dunhuang and conducting research on maritime links between China and India in view of our extensive contacts over the centuries,” according to the foreign ministry statement.

Xi, during the summit, is understood to have referred to the need for a connectivity corridor or network between India and China. But he did not specify any existing or proposed project. India is not averse to exploring the proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor following Beijing’s decision to keep it out of BRI’s ambit.
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