India, China need to be sensitive to strategic interests: Modi on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

NEW DELHI: India raised its concern with China on Sunday over the CPEC which runs through PoK and terrorism “emanating from the region” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chinese President Xi Jinping the two countries need to be “sensitive” to each other’s strategic interests. Asserting that fight against terror should not be motivated by “political considerations”, Modi said it is of “paramount importance that we respect each other’s aspirations, concerns and strategic interests” to ensure durable bilateral ties.

During the bilateral meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit Hangzhou, Modi raised India’s concerns over the US $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Besides a host of energy-related projects, the CPEC consists of rail, road and pipelines to ferry oil and gas from Gwadar port on Arabian Sea to Kashghar in China’s Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province through PoK.

Replying to a question whether the terrorism emanating from the region where the CPEC is being laid through has been discussed, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters the issue has been raised during the meeting. In his candid comments reflecting India’s concerns, Modi said both India and China need to be “sensitive” to each other’s strategic interests and called for specific actions to “prevent growth of negative perception”.

“As a matter of principle, both countries would have to be sensitive to each other’s strategic interests,” Swarup said while touching upon broad themes that Modi stressed upon during his 35-minute bilateral with Xi, their eighth meeting.

“In order to promote positive convergence, we would also need to prevent growth of negative perception. For this, the specific actions by both countries would play the major role,” he said. In particular, Modi highlighted that “we have succeeded in maintaining peace and tranquillity on the border”, he added. Condemning the recent suicide bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, Modi said it is yet another proof of the continuing scourge of terrorism.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that our response to terror must not be motivated by political considerations,” Swarup said. On his part, Xi said China is willing to work with India to maintain their “hard-won sound” ties and further boost bilateral cooperation.

What does Xi Jinping have to say?

“China is willing to work with India to maintain their hard-won sound relations and further advance their cooperation”, state-run Chinese Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying. “China and India should respect and care for each other on issues of major concern, and handle differences in a constructive way,” Xi told Modi.

Xi said both sides had seen healthy, stable and speedy development of their relationship, and that as neighbours and developing nations they should continue high-level exchanges. About the bilateral relations, which experienced turbulence due to differences over a raft of issues, Modi said in order to make the Asian century a reality, the countries of the continent would have to take responsibility.

On his part, Xi said China and India should continue dialogues at various levels and in various areas, and frequently exchange views on major issues of common interest to enhance understanding and trust. Their meeting came at a time when the bilateral ties have witnessed turbulence over a raft of issues involving Pakistan including China’s technical hold on UN ban against Pakistan- based Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar and its attempts to block India s entry into Nuclear Security Group.

With these issues involving Pakistan, the perception in India is gaining that carefully developed ties by the two countries in the last few years were being allowed to slide to further the interests of Beijing’s all weather ally Pakistan. Asked whether Prime Minister Modi raised the issue of China blocking India’s bid for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) during the bilateral, Swarup declined to get into the “nitty-gritty” of the issues discussed.

“I am not going into the nitty-gritty of each and everything that was discussed. Everything is not meant for public consumption. There are certain things (which) need to remain between the two governments,” he said.

On yet another question on the NSG issue, he said: “I will not go into the specifics, if you read between the lines, you pretty much understand when you we talk about strategic interests, concerns and aspirations, it is not as if China is not unaware of our strategic interests, aspirations and concerns or we are unaware of their concerns. So, it is something both sides are well aware.

“This was a meeting at summit level between the two. They are meant to provide high-level guidance and direction to overall relations.” Citing that India has not signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, China had opposed its bid to join the elite 48-member bloc during NSG’s meeting in Seoul in June.

Modi said he always had a strategic vision for India- China ties. The India-China partnership is important not only for the two countries but for the entire region and the world. “India has worked to make progress in the closer, developmental partnership with China. Cultural and people-to-people ties have also been increasing,” Swarup said.

Asked to comment on the Chinese state-media quoting Xi as telling Modi that China is willing to maintain “hard-won sound” relations with India, Swarup said, “it would not be appropriate for me to characterise President Xi’s remarks. “After all we are in his country and it is for the Chinese side to amplify and clarify whatever he said. Not appropriate for me to characterise what the other side said,” he said.

“In the context of India and China, he said that our peoples also have the expectation that we make every possible effort to fulfil their dreams of progress, development and prosperity,” Swarup said. Ahead of the 8th BRICS Summit next month, Modi, who is here to attend the two-day G20 Summit, extended a personal invitation to Xi to come to Goa which the Chinese leader said he was very happy to accept.