BEIJING – China failed to get India’s support for its ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure project at the end of a foreign ministers’ meeting of a major security bloc on Tuesday, ahead of an ice-breaking trip to China this week by India’s prime minister.
The Belt and Road is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s landmark scheme to build infrastructure to connect China to the rest of Asia and beyond, a giant reworking of its old Silk Road.
India has not signed up to the initiative as parts of one key project, the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, run through Pakistan-administered Kashmir that India considers to be its own territory.
Whether or not China will be able to win India over to the Belt and Road will likely be a key measure of the success of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to China to meet Xi for an informal meeting on Friday and Saturday.
But India’s foreign minister did not express support for Belt and Road in the communique released after foreign ministers of the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation met in Beijing.
India, along with Pakistan, joined the group last year.
All the other foreign ministers- from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan- “reaffirmed support for China’s Belt and Road proposal,” the statement read.
It gave no further explanation.
Modi is coming to China as efforts at rapprochement gather pace following a trying year for ties between the two neighbors.
The Asian giants were locked in a 73-day military stand-off in a remote, high-altitude stretch of their border last year. At one point, soldiers from the two sides threw stones and punches.
The confrontation between the nuclear-armed powers in the Himalayas underscored Indian alarm at China’s expanding security and economic links in South Asia.
Modi will come again to China in June for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
China will also have to tread carefully to avoid giving its close ally Pakistan cause for alarm. China on Monday reassured Pakistan that relations between the two countries were as firm as ever and would “never rust.”