SL backs India’s concern over Kashmir in China’s OBOR project

Sri Lanka, which attended the just concluded Belt and Road Forum here, has backed India’s concern over the Kashmir issue, saying it is difficult for New Delhi to accept the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it goes through the “heart of Indian interests”.

India, which skipped the high-profile meeting, would have joined “very happily” in the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative of China, said Sarath Amanugama, Sri Lanka’s Minister on Special Assignment.

“Unfortunately, the issue is going through the heart of Indian interests. If it is some uncontested region, India would have negotiated its way out. Here especially the Kashmir issue getting dragged into it, makes it difficult for India to be flexible,” Amanugama, who accompanied Lankan Prime Minister Wickramasinghe to the two-day forum here, told PTI.

He said India, China and Sri Lanka were very much part of the ancient Silk Road route as the Chinese Buddhist scholars like Faxian visited both India and Sri Lanka leading to big discoveries of Buddhist relics in the island nation.

“(Chinese) President Xi Jinping has emphasised connectivity. These countries were connected many centuries ago. This will link up these countries on certain rational basis. Once the regional problems are resolved, then India has to play big role in the initiative,” he said, adding that India anyway has to play big role “because you cannot think of a belt and road without going over and close to India.”

India skipped the meeting due to its sovereignty concerns over the USD 50 billion CPEC, which goes through Pakistan- occupied Kashmir. The two-day conference in Beijing brought together leaders from 29 countries.

Besides Wickramasinghe, the summit was attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several other leaders, heads of UN, World Bank and IMF.

Wickaramasinghe, who arrived here a day after he hosted Prime Minister Narandra Modi in Sri Lanka, had a low-key presence at the high-profile summit.

While Sharif and many other leaders spoke at the inaugural ceremony, the Sri Lankan leader reportedly took part in the discussions in the round table meeting yesterday.

Amunagama said that Sri Lanka will not permit any foreign military operations in its port by any country including China, in an effort to reassure India’s security concerns over Chinese military activity.

Sri Lanka has an estimated debt of USD eight billion to China. The loans were taken for different mega projects. 


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