New Delhi (Sputnik): China has sought to delink the contentious economic corridor it is building through Gilgit Baltistan, a territory currently administered by Pakistan but claimed by India as its own, from Sino-Indian ties.
"We are neighbours, we are partners. Historically we were together and in the future, I never believe that anybody can separate India and China," China's Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zhang Jun said while describing ties between New Delhi and Beijing.
The BRI has become a major irritant in Sino-Indian ties since it was unveiled in 2013. India has kept itself away from the project as a mark of disproval of China's apparent recognition of Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistani territory by inking a deal with Pakistan for building the economic corridor.
"China has repeatedly stated the CPEC is an economic initiative. Implementing CPEC does not jeopardise China's position on Kashmir," the Chinese asssistant foreign affairs minister clarified on Monday.
The Chinese official also referred to three meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping since April in the context of improved bilateral relations. "There is a fresh impetus in bilateral ties," Zhang added.
A professor and commentator on International Affairs opined that the statement must be looked upon as changing the perception of China with regard to the need for Indian participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"China now believes that an immediate neighbour like India with such huge market opportunities cannot be ignored and must be brought on board. It also now believes that without India, the economic and political viability of the project will be under question in the long run. The statement must be seen as an evolving perception of China with regard to a participant in the project. At the same time, China also knows that Pakistan can't be ignored completely," Prof Swaran Singh of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, told Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Sawarn Singh in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.