India To Skip The Second Flagship Project Belt And Road Forum Being Hosted By China Next Week

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New Delhi: India will skip the second Belt and Road Forum being hosted by China next week to boost President Xi Jinping’s five-year-old flagship connectivity project.

The reasons behind the decision to decline the invitation for the second iteration of the forum are the same ones that drove a boycott of the first event in May 2017 – core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity and the uneven playing field created by the Chinese, the people said.

Chinese officials have said about 40 foreign government leaders and representatives of more than 100 countries have confirmed their participation in the forum, expected to be held in Beijing during April 26-27.

Among India’s neighbours, Pakistan has said Prime Minister Imran Khan will make a four-day visit to China from April 25 to attend the forum. Khan is set to deliver the keynote speech at the opening ceremony and join a leaders’ roundtable.

Khan’s role is hardly surprising given Pakistan’s traditionally close ties with China, though officials in New Delhi are keeping a close eye on the level of participation by India’s neighbours and other countries. Bhutan, for instance, won’t attend the event, the people said.

The inaugural event attracted 29 heads of state and government, and while the number for this year’s event is higher, the people quoted above pointed to misgivings among many countries about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the lower level of participation by nations such as Germany and the US.

“More and more people see the BRI as a form of economic imperialism. While some countries that were starved of funds had welcomed BRI in the past, they now see the pitfalls associated with it,” said a person, pointing to a Chinese company’s takeover of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port in 2017 after the island nation was unable to repay debts associated with its development.

 

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