India flags PoK projects to China ahead of PM’s visit

New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, New Delhi has expressed its concerns to Beijing over its infrastructure projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). China has planned a 3,000-km corridor creating a network of roads, railways and pipelines linking China to the Arabian Sea through PoK.

“The matter was raised with the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. It was also taken up by our Indian envoy in Beijing,” Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said when asked about China’s infrastructure projects in PoK.

The $46-billion project is an economic corridor that will connect Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with the Xinjiang province through PoK. But it has not gone down well with India. The project was finalised after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Pakistan last month.

The project is part of Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia. It will give China easier access to West Asian oil via the deepwater port of Gwadar in southwest Pakistan. Control of the Gwadar port was passed to a Chinese company in 2013.

India’s concerns about the project running through PoK have earlier been dismissed by Chinese President Xi Jinping who said it only a “commercial project”.

Speaking to journalists on Modi’s six-day visit to China, Mongolia and South Korea, Jaishankar said a slew of agreements will be signed with all the three countries to bolster cooperation in key areas.

Asked if any breakthrough was expected on the controversial boundary issue with China during Modi’s meetings with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, the foreign secretary did not give a direct answer, saying that 18 rounds have been held between the special representatives and the two sides were yet to reach a stage where there is finality. However, he noted that progress on all bilateral issues and challenges will be discussed during Modi’s talks with the Chinese leadership.

Modi will visit China, Mongolia and South Korea between May 14 and 19.

Modi will first fly to Xian, the home province of Xi for a summit meeting with the Chinese leader during which they are expected to discuss ways to take forward the strategic partnership between the two countries.