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BEIJING: In an unexpected move, the Communist Party of China has enshrined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in its constitution. This will mean intense pressure on a reluctant New Delhi to join the programme as China would enhance infrastructure funding to India’s neighbours apart from enticing Indian leaders with attractive construction projects, observers said.
Last May, India was the only major country to boycott a major Belt and Road Forum in Beijing although most Western countries, including the US, sent senior officials to the event after Chinese diplomats made a prestige issue of it. The Indian foreign ministry went a step further, issuing a statement highlighting some of the concerns about the programme.
The five-yearly Communist Party Congress, which ended in Beijing on Tuesday, introduced new dimensions to the party constitution, which include steps to “follow the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration” and “to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been calling on foreign leaders to participate in this plan for a “shared destiny for all mankind” under the BRI. This aspect has also been included in the party constitution because it provides the ideological underpinning for Beijing’s plan to fund and construct infrastructure projects across the globe.
The new move may bring some relief among Pakistani leaders who have been under pressure over terrorist attacks taking place along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of the BRI. With BRI becoming a part of the Communist Party’s constitution, Islamabad can expect continued funding for projects planned and constructed by Chinese companies.
India has been opposed to one portion of the economic corridor because it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which is claimed by New Delhi. Beijing has brushed off Indian concern saying it was investing for the welfare and development of the backward region and did not have any military objective in the construction of the corridor.
CPEC is a showcase project for China in the face of criticism by international experts that many of the projects selected under the programme are unbankable and may result in bankruptcy for the underdeveloped countries implementing them. It is also important for China from the military standpoint because the economic corridor leads to Gwadar port which gives it access to the Arabian Sea.
“The danger of having given it greater visibility is that actually there are going to be more of those efforts to play to the policy in a political way rather than considering carefully the costs and benefits of each portion of what one is doing,” said Dali Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago.