India has once again expressed its strong opposition to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), reaffirming its stance as Maldives’ president-elect Mohamed Muizzu endorsed the development role played by Beijing’s flagship infrastructure program in participating countries.
India’s Ongoing Cooperation with Maldives
India’s cooperation with the Maldives is rooted in addressing shared challenges and common priorities, as mentioned by Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs. The cooperation encompasses security and development assistance, demonstrating India’s commitment to the Indian Ocean archipelago.
India’s Consistent Stance on the Belt and Road Initiative
Arindam Bagchi highlighted India’s long-standing position on the BRI, including concerns regarding the program’s “lack of respect for our sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He emphasized that India’s concerns regarding the BRI’s impact on sovereignty and territorial integrity remain consistent.
India’s Non-Participation in This Year’s Belt and Road Forum
Unlike previous occasions, India did not receive an invitation to this year’s Belt and Road Forum hosted by China. Arindam Bagchi confirmed India’s non-participation in the event.
Reasons for India’s Opposition to the BRI
India’s decision to abstain from the BRI is due to its concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key segment of the massive infrastructure project. The CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an area that India considers part of its sovereignty. India also raises concerns about the BRI’s impact on providing a level playing field for non-Chinese companies.
Arindam Bagchi referenced a statement issued by India in May 2017, during the inaugural Belt and Road Forum, to underscore India’s opposition to the BRI. The statement explicitly objected to CPEC passing through territories under the “illegal occupation of Pakistan.”
India’s Response to Maldives’ President-Elect’s Endorsement of the BRI
In response to questions about the Maldives’ president-elect supporting the BRI and pledging to remove Indian military personnel from the archipelago, Arindam Bagchi emphasized the substantial assistance provided by India to the Maldives. This assistance encompasses various areas, such as humanitarian support, disaster relief, people’s welfare, and combatting illegal maritime activities.
India has supplied two military helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft to the Maldives, and it maintains a small security personnel contingent in the country. Over the past five years, Indian personnel have conducted more than 500 medical evacuations, saving numerous Maldivian lives. Additionally, they have carried out multifaceted missions to ensure the Maldives’ maritime security.
Arindam Bagchi expressed India’s commitment to continuing its cooperation with the Maldives, focusing on humanitarian assistance, welfare, disaster relief, and bolstering the well-being of the Maldivian people.
India’s unwavering stance against the BRI reflects its dedication to safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity, while also underscoring its commitment to cooperating with neighboring nations for mutual progress and welfare.