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On Monday, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi released the transcript of a meeting held at United Services Institute (USI), an Indian think-tank, which had the Chinese ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, in attendance.

To allay Indian reservations, Ambassador Zhaohui offered to rename CPEC but refrained from suggesting any alternatives to the name.

The Chinese ambassador spoke at length about Indo-China relations and proposed some measures that could be taken by both of the states to improve the strained ties between them. As part of this initiative, he invited India to join China’s One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) project.

“Some people in the West misread China and tend to think that the ‘Dragon’ and the ‘Elephant’ are inevitable rivals and that China would not like to see India developing. This conception is wrong. We hope to see India develop well and we are more than happy to help India develop to achieve common development,” he stated.

Allaying CPEC objections

The past few weeks have seen Chinese diplomats proactively wooing the Indian establishment in an attempt to get India to attend its international conference which is being held on May 14th-15th to promote its OBOR initiative. Over 30 countries and many head of states will attend the conference. Many Indian foreign policy analysts and Indian Ex-Ambassador Bhadrakumar, have criticised current Indian foreign policy with China on OBOR and CPEC, as cutting its nose to spite its face and have urged it to get involved with China on the initiative.

Read More: China’s ‘soft’ imperialism: Will Pakistan gain nothing from CPEC?

India’s objection to OBOR is that the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a key component of OBOR – is running through Gilgit-Baltistan, which India claims, is its territory and has been occupied by Pakistan. The Gilgit-Baltistan issue is an aspect of the larger Jammu and Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India.

To allay Indian reservations, Ambassador Zhaohui offered to rename CPEC but refrained from suggesting any alternatives to the name.

“We are willing to mediate when India and Pakistan have problems. But the precondition is that both India and Pakistan accept it. We do this only out of goodwill”

“China and India have had successful experience of delinking sovereignty disputes with bilateral relations before. In history, we have had close cooperation along the ancient Silk Road. Why shouldn’t we support this kind of cooperation today? In a word, China is sincere in its intention to cooperate with India on the OBOR, as it is good for both of us,” said the Ambassador.

Chinese diplomats have tried to engage Indians through many public and private meetings in an effort to have an Indian representative present in the conference. They have previously pointed out that even Tokyo was sending a senior ruling party member to attend the conference even though Japan can by no means be termed as a supporter of the OBOR initiative.

Regarding the conflicts between India and Pakistan, the Ambassador stated: “The development of China, India, Pakistan and the stability of the whole region call for a stable and friendly environment. Otherwise, how could we open up and develop? That’s why we say we are willing to mediate when India and Pakistan have problems. But the precondition is that both India and Pakistan accept it. We do this only out of goodwill. We do hope that there is no problem at all. When the Mumbai terrorist attack on Nov 26, 2008, took place, I was Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, and I did a lot of mediation at that time.”

“Simply put, we always put China first and we deal with problems based on their own merits,”

Last month in Mumbai, the Chinese deputy chief of mission Liu Jinsong had said at a conference on OBOR that any trade route linking China and Pakistan had to pass through Pakistan’ Kashmir territory. “It’s known to all that such transportation could not detour through India and Afghanistan,” he said.

Two weeks after Liu’s Mumbai remarks, the Chinese ambassador also reiterated that reports on Indian media of Beijing having a Pakistan-first policy in South Asia were not true. “Simply put, we always put China first and we deal with problems based on their own merits,” he noted.

He reminded his audience that China had modified its stance on Kashmir from support for UN resolutions till the 1990s to support for a “settlement through bilateral negotiation in line with the Simla Agreement”.

Read More: CPEC’s vulnerabilities: Can Pakistan carve a way out?

“This is an example of China taking care of India’s concern. Today few Indian friends remember this episode, or they have chosen to forget it,” said the Chinese ambassador.

However, it is interesting to note that the offer to rename CPEC was promptly removed from the Chinese embassy’s website less than a day after the offer had been made. Below is a before and after screenshot.

India

Four point proposal to strengthen Into-China relations

The Chinese Ambassador proposed a four-point approach to strengthening Indo-China relations.

Read More: CPEC does not change Beijing’s position on “Kashmir” – China Clarifies…

The points were:

First point: Aligning China’s “One Belt One Road Initiative” (OBOR) and India’s “Act East Policy.” (The Act East policy was developed by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao (1991–1996) and was meant to bolster relations with India’s neighboring states in an effort to counter weight China’s influence.)

Second point: Starting negotiations to drafting a treaty for “good neighborliness and friendly cooperation”.

Third point: Restart negotiations on China-India free trade agreement.

Fourth point: Strive for “early harvest” of the border issue.

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