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IndiaIndia to skip China’s Belt & Road Forum for a third time

India to skip China’s Belt & Road Forum for a third time


New Delhi, Oct 16: For the third consecutive time, is set to boycott a summit of China's Belt and Road Initiative here on Tuesday to highlight its stand on the sovereignty issues in the controversial CPEC, which is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and the financial viability of Beijing's projects in smaller countries, official sources here said. The two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRFIC) is being held by China amid criticism that the loans amounting to billions of dollars for unsustainable projects turned out to be debt traps for smaller countries like Sri Lanka, driving them into a deep economic crisis.

This year marks the completion of 10 years of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the pet project of President Xi Jinping. China held two international forums for its mega global infrastructure initiative in 2017 and 2019. India had stayed away from both the meetings.

Official sources here said like in the previous two BRI conferences, India will not take part in this year's meeting either.

India is steadfast in its criticism of the BRI, especially its flagship the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) overriding New Delhi's sovereignty concerns.

India is also vocal about its criticism that the BRI projects should be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, and the rule of law, and follow principles of openness, transparency and financial sustainability.

“The BRFIC is the most important diplomatic event hosted by China this year, and the most significant celebration for the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu told state-run Xinhua news agency ahead of the conference.

“So far, representatives of over 140 countries and 30-plus international organisations, including state leaders, heads of international organisations, ministerial officials and representatives of the business sector, academia and nongovernmental organisations, have confirmed their attendance,” Ma said, adding that more than 4,000 delegates have registered for participation in the event.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be attending the meeting, according to Russia's official news agency TASS.

A number of other heads of state and governments, notably Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose country has gone bankrupt and declared sovereign default of its loans last year, have arrived here to attend the meeting.

Sri Lanka has a total foreign debt of USD 46.9 billion, 52 per cent of which is owed to China, its largest lender.

India had pitched in with about USD four billion in assistance to Sri Lanka to immediately tide over its worst economic crisis and helped the island nation to access the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

The concerns over the BRI projects grew louder after China took over Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease as a debt swap in 2017. Several other countries, including Malaysia and even Beijing's all- ally Pakistan, have expressed a wish to cut down Chinese projects over debt concerns.

However, China which sees the BRI as its main plank to further its influence in the is pressing ahead with the project amid indications that it may be downsizing the investments considering the state of its slowing down and demand for a number of recipient countries to restructure the debt.

Ahead of President Wickremesinghe's arrival here, China has agreed to restructure Sri Lanka's debt after lengthy rounds of talks. The agreement is crucial for the island nation as it is required to reach debt restructuring agreements with all its creditors to further avail of a USD three billion bailout loan from the IMF.

Both Colombo and Beijing, however, are tight-lipped on the details of the debt restructuring agreement.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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