- 29 countries participate in China's Belt and Road Forum, India boycotts
- India's refusal because part of project passes Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
- Position on Kashmir won't change because of project: China
"While India recently issued an official statement saying it would not be part of the "One Belt and One Road" (Belt and Road) initiative, it will not affect the trend towards cooperation in infrastructure development among its neighbouring countries at all," Global Times reported today.
"India was openly skeptical of China's Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hours ahead of the opening of the event, mainly due to concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key project of the Belt and Road," it said.
"The Belt and Road is a grand economic cooperation and development plan open to everyone, and is aimed at improving infrastructure in countries along its route, thus benefiting the local people," it said.
"China would never force any country to participate in the Belt and Road if it was too skeptical and nervous to do so. It is regrettable but not a problem that India still maintains its strong opposition to the project, even though China has repeatedly said its position on Kashmir would not change because of the CPEC," the article stated.
Referring to the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on May 13, a day before the two-day Belt and Road summit, it said India also cited the potential debt burden as one of its other concerns, saying that, "connectivity initiatives must follow the principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create an unsustainable debt burden for communities."
"It is strange that the onlooker is more anxious than the players. While India cares about its neighbours' debt burden, the neighbours appear willing to take on more," it said. On Saturday, Pakistan and China signed new deals worth nearly $500 million, covering airport, port and highway construction, it said.
"As regards the potential debt burden, Pakistan's repayments will peak at around $5 billion in 2022, but this will be offset by transit fees charged in the CPEC," it quoted a media report and referred to Nepal officially signing a deal with China to join the Belt and Road project with plans to build a cross-border rail link that may cost up to $8 billion.
The article further claimed that given the active responses from countries along the route, there is no way for India to impede its neighbouring countries from cooperating with China.
"China has formally invited India to join the Belt and Road. If India doesn't want to take a part on the stage, then it should just be a good member of the audience. The role is still available if India changes its mind, but it may only be a small role if it is left too late," it said.