China on Monday offered to open talks with India to resolve differences on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), opening the door for removing a major irritant in New Delhi-Beijing ties.
“We are ready to work with Indian side through dialogue and communication for a better solution. This best serves the interests of the two countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, when asked to comment on remarks on CPEC by India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale.
“Regarding CPEC, China has repeatedly reiterated our position. As to the differences between China and India, China stands ready to communicate and talk with India to seek proper solutions so that these differences will not affect our general national interests,” Ms. Hua observed.
The Chinese foreign ministry’s advocacy for talks in the context of CPEC, follows observations by Luo Zhaohui China’s ambassador to India. In November, Mr. Luo had expressed readiness to accommodate India’s concerns regarding CPEC. “We can change the name of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). Create an alternative corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India’s concerns,” he observed during a speech at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.
India has objected to CPEC which passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as violation of its sovereignty.
In an interview last week, Mr. Bambawale had proposed a new phase of dialogue between India and China, which would cover all differences including CPEC. He had also highlighted that India and China were “partners” and not “rivals”.
While expressing openness for talks with India, the Chinese foreign ministry appeared markedly restrained in commenting on Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s lavish praise for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which CPEC is a part, during his address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos.
Without any direct reference to Pakistan, and dropping standard terminology of describing Islamabad as an “iron brother,” Ms. Hua said: “We have noted relevant reports. As we said many times the BRI is proposed to strengthen global cooperation and use interconnectivity of infrastructure to allow each other’s development strategy and to give full play to our comparative advantages for win-win cooperation.”
Asked to comment on China’s alleged newly developed military infrastructure in the Doklam area, as shown in recently published satellite pictures, Ms. Hua reiterated Beijing’s stock response that Donglang (Doklam) was China’s sovereign territory, and Beijing had a right to build infrastructure in the area.
“The Sikkim section of the China-India boundary has been demarcated by historical treaty and is under effective jurisdiction by China. And China will as always uphold its sovereignty along the border area including Donglang.”
The spokesperson said that China and India “should look at our border issue in a calm way…so that we can create a good condition and enabling environment to properly solve our differences.”
Ms. Hua underscored that India was China’s “cooperation partner,” endorsing the Indian envoy’s advocacy in his interview for a deeper engagement between the two countries.
“As two neighbours in Asia and major developing countries the two sides should treat each other as (neighbours presenting) opportunities for development. It is also a consensus reached by the two state leaders and we will surely treat India as our cooperation partner,” Ms. Hua observed.
She added: “We hope to enhance people-to-people ties through such communication exchanges, and to enhance our mutual trust so that we can lay a more solid foundation and public support for our bilateral relations.”