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China pledges billions of dollars for New Silk Road

15 May 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is positioning himself as the chief advocate for free trade, on Sunday pledged to pump billions of dollars into what he calls the One Belt One Road project that would link the whole world into a seamless market.

Xi and his ally, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, also snubbed India for its non-participation, stating that the belt and road initiative respected ''territorial integrity''.

Xi described his signature foreign policy push as inclusive, one that should not be held hostage to old rivalries and power games.

India has opted to keep out of the two-day `Belt and Road' summit in Beijing, in which about 23 heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz, Sharif are participating.

All of India's neighbours, except Bhutan, have sent high-level delegations to the conference, with Sri Lanka represented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

In his policy push, Xi pledged an extra 100 billion yuan ($14.50 billion) into the existing Silk Road Fund, 380 billion yuan in loans from two infrastructure banks and 60 billion yuan in aid to developing countries and international bodies in countries along the new trade routes.

Xi said China would encourage financial institutions to expand their overseas yuan fund businesses to the tune of 300 billion yuan.

He, however, did not give a time frame for the new loans, aid and funding pledged on Sunday.

''We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy,'' Xi said in his inaugural address to the Belt and Road Forum (BRF), even as he highlighted the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In a snub to India's concerns, the Chinese President said the belt and road initiative respected ''territorial integrity''.

''All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other's development paths and social systems, and each other's core interests and major concerns,'' Xi told the gathering at the sprawling China Convention Centre.

The CPEC, a cluster of road, rail and energy projects, that connects Kashgar in China's far-western western Xinjiang province with Pakistan's southern Gwadar port city on the Arabian Sea, however, passes through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, which challenges New Delhi's sovereignty by lending legitimacy to Pakistan's claim over the territory.

''...No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,'' ministry of external affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said on Saturday night.

But, for China, the CPEC is at the core of its One Belt, One Road plan, or Belt Road Initiative (BRI).

''The corridor (CPEC) is a flagship programme of the BRI. The governments of both China and Pakistan attach great importance to it and have actively started preparation for long-term plans,'' the document titled 'Building the Belt and Road: Concept, Practice and China's contribution' said with a rare mention of ''flagship'' in a Chinese official document.

''What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence,'' he said. ''In advancing the Belt and Road, we will not retread the old path of games between foes. Instead we will create a new model of cooperation and mutual benefit.''

In his speech at the inaugural BRF session, Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif said the CPEC was a ''core'' project of the BRI.

''In fact, it has been rightly called its flagship because it aims to connect the neighbourhoods of East and West Asia. CPEC makes Pakistan both a conduit and destination for cross-regional investment and trade,'' Sharif said.

He indicated what the Chinese have been saying India is welcome to join the CPEC.
''Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries,'' he said.

''It must not be politicised. In implementing this Corridor, we are not striving to merely leverage geography for economic prosperity, we are also trying to build a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood. It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations,'' Sharif said.
Under the BRI, China plans to revive ancient trade routes from Asia to Europe and Africa involves a network of rail, road and sea links.

The initiative is also said to have won the support of more than 100 countries and international organisations, of which at least 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China.

Nepal is the latest country to jump on to the bandwagon. It signed a deal with China on Friday.

However, the summit document does not attach much importance to the other BRI projects.

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