China today dismissed criticism that its multi-billion dollar Silk Road initiative to revive ancient trade routes is a “geopolitical tool” aimed at extending influence, underlining that the mega project is an open and inclusive initiative for regional cooperation.
Reports note that the Belt and Road initiative, which comprises of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was suggested by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Speaking to the press, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said “China’s ‘Belt and Road’ is an open and inclusive initiative for regional cooperation and not a geopolitical tool,”. This was to dismiss the conundrum of thought that the routes would cause geopolitical strains, with countries increasingly worried about becoming too dependent on China.
“China is not seeking to secure influence in the region, and would not force anyone’s hands. The Belt and Road project, the official name for Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road projects is in harmony with the common interests of all related countries and international organizations,” he added.
Addressing the media, he said that the project will improve connections between Eurasia and the rest of the world and spur growth. China has already commenced USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passed through Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK).
The corridor connects China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port and provides it access to the Arabian Sea and facilitates speedier imports of oil from the Middle East.
While India has protested over CPEC as it goes through the PaK, it is taking part in the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor project which is still in conceptual stage. However, it is intriguing that India has not so far extended backing to the Maritime Silk Road as New Delhi is reviving the Spice Route to revive trade links with Indian Ocean countries.
Xi Jinping has already announced the USD 40 billion Silk Road fund which has already become operational.
As per reports more than 60 countries and international organizations have expressed positive impressions on the initiative. Meanwhile some have amended the agreements and major project are already making steady progress. The Belt and Road initiative meets the needs of all countries and regions along the route, and is conducive to creating demand and jobs in these areas.
“This will promote recovery of the world economy, which is in the interest of all countries in the world,” said Lu Kang. “China will continue to push forward pragmatic cooperation with partner countries under the framework to achieve mutual benefit and win-win outcomes,” he added.