Frosty Indo-Pak relations after the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops were on full display here when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was on dais with his Pakistani counterpart, often sharing cold vibes and aggressively countering Islamabad backing of Chinas Belt and Road initiative.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road also known as The Belt and Road (B&R), One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or the Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia,which consists of two main components, the land-based ‘Silk Road Economic Belt'(SREB) and oceangoing ‘Maritime Silk Road'(MSR).
The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing.
The coverage area of the initiative is primarily Asia and Europe, encompassing around 60 countries. Oceania and East Africa are also included. Anticipated cumulative investment over an indefinite timescale is variously put at US$4 trillion or US$8 trillion.One Belt, One Road has been contrasted with the two US-centric trading arrangements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
This is the first time two high-ranking ministers were sharing the podium after the recent flare up of tension between the two neighbouring countries after Pakistani forces killed and mutilated bodies of two Indian soldiers near the line of control on Monday.
Jaitley and Pakistan’s finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar were among the four speakers on a debate business news channel CNBC organised on ‘Asia’s Economic Outlook: Talking Trade’ on sides of Asian Development Bank’s 50th annual meet.
The Indian minister sat in a position that his head was turned away from the Pakistani leader all through the one-hour debate and left immediately after a customary photo-op with panel members. There were no warm hand shakes.
Jaitley smiled just once,On a question on US taxi aggregator Uber facing hard times, he smiled and said, “I think they are having a great time in India.”
While no question was put to the two ministers either on the recent tensions or the trade between the two nations, Jaitley did not reply when journalists tried to speak to him.
When Dar backed One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative to connect China with the rest of Eurasia, Jaitley said India has “serious reservations” on the proposal because of sovereignty issues.
“I think connectivity in principle is a good idea but the particular proposal which has just been suggested by you, I think there are several other collateral issues and this is not really the forum for me to go into all this,” he said.
Stating that the idea is always there for the future as the expansion of connectivity takes place between countries, he said he has “no hesitation in saying that we have serious reservations about it (OBOR) because of sovereignty issues. I don’t want to get into it at this stage but there are issues”.
Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Finance Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar. courtesy:China.org.cn
Speaking at the same forum after Jaitley, Pakistan finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar said, “Connectivity is the name of the game and with all due respect to some panelists, we strongly support One Belt One Road. It is a very good initiative. We are part of it and we strongly promote this idea.”