India, the elephant at China's grand belt and road forum

Elbert EdwardsMay 16, 2017

The initiative would provide some of the $7 trillion of investment in infrastructure the Asian Development Bank says the region needs this decade.

"Chinese outbound investment is forecast to total $600 billion to $800 billion over the next five years, a fairly large proportion of which will go into markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative", said Ning Jizhe, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a news conference.

President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in the National Convention Center in Beijing on May 14, 2017.

Some of China's most reliable allies and partners are at the forum, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"Pursuing the B&R initiative, China has no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability", Xi was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The China Development Bank has earmarked US$890 billion for some 900 projects.

The Belt of Road Initiative will greatly contribute to open trade, key to economic prosperity, which will stimulate growth and peace, and which will lead to a win-win situation for all, Mahmood said.

"In this situation we want to be completely open and outward looking", said Zhang Xueliang, economics professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Despite the success of the forum on its first day, some criticism of the Belt and Road programme was voiced by representatives of developed countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted dozens of world leaders and senior officials yesterday for the country's biggest diplomatic showcase of the year, touting his vision of a new "Silk Road" that opens trade routes across the globe.

"Although the Northern Australia initiative is separate to the Belt and Road Initiative, there are clearly complementarities there so we can share knowledge and we can share experience for the benefit of both nations", he told reporters in Beijing, where he is representing Australia at a summit on the new Silk Road.

"As regards the potential debt burden, Pakistan's repayments will peak at around United States dollars 5 billion in 2022, but this will be offset by transit fees charged in the CPEC", it quoted a media report and referred to Nepal officially signing a deal with China to join the Belt and Road with plans to build a cross-border rail link that may cost up to USD 8 billion.

Central to the project in Pakistan is the renovation of the 487-kilometre Karakoram Highway, which is part of China's only land passage to the Middle East.

Chinese officials insist the initiative is purely commercial, but foreign diplomats and political analysts also see an effort by Beijing to promote its own vision of trade and security arrangements and reduce the US presence in Asia.

Asked whether New Delhi was participating in the summit, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said India could not accept a project that compromised its sovereignty.

The Belt and Road initiative includes a maze of roads and port projects.

"This is a continuation of Chinese non-interference", Economist Suman Bery said.

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