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China invites all at Silk Road forum, India decides to keep away

Sunday May 14, 2017 9:17 AM, Agencies

Modi with Xi

Beijing/New Delhi:
China invited all countries to a forum meet that began Saturday on it's new Silk Road plan, the foreign ministry said, but India has decided to boycott saying the connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Billed as 'One Belt One Road', the project is aimed at border connectivity through ports, railways and roads.

In a statement on Saturday, India's Ministry of External Affairs said, "Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity."

In a reference to the controversies that plague the Chinese plan, the Indian government statement goes on to say, "We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality.

"Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs; and skill and technology transfer to help long term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities", the statement said.

One part of the project called the CPEC (the China Pakistan Economic Corridor) runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir or PoK. India has strongly objected to this project, maintaining that PoK is a part of India, not Pakistan.

The United States is sending a delegation led by White House adviser Matt Pottinger but warned China that North Korea's attendance could affect other countries' participation.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said the U.S. embassy in Beijing had submitted a diplomatic note to China's foreign ministry, saying inviting North Korea sent the wrong message at a time when the world was trying to pressure it over its repeated missile and nuclear tests.

The disagreement over North Korea threatens to overshadow China's most important diplomatic event of the year for an initiative championed by President Xi Jinping.

Asked about the U.S. note, the foreign ministry said in a short statement sent to Reuters that it did "not understand the situation".

"The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive one. We welcome all countries delegations to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation," it said.

Some of China's most reliable allies and partners are attending the forum including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

There are also several European leaders coming, including the prime ministers of Spain, Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Chinese Prime Minister Xi offered Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of deeply indebted Greece strong support on Saturday, saying the two countries should expand cooperation in infrastructure, energy and telecommunications.

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