By Gaurav Sharma

Beijing–India is a natural partner in China’s Belt and Road project and should not be paranoid about its key artery in the disputed Kashmir as it won’t affect Beijing’s neutral stance, a top Chinese government official said on Monday.

“Historically, India was an important country on the ancient Silk Road and it is fair to say that India was a natural partner in the ancient (Silk Road) and (is one) in the Belt and Road initiative,” China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said here.

India has opposed Belt and Road’s flagship project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it cuts through the disputed Kashmir.

“China has repeatedly stressed that CPEC is an economic initiative. Implementing CPEC does not change China’s position on Kashmir,” Zhang said.

China is building a huge network of roads, highways, ports and sea lanes to connect Asia with Europe. Many countries including India suspect the project is a China’s geostrategic ploy.

“Let me say a few points. First, India is an important neighbour of China. Both China and India are emerging economies and developing countries. Under the leadership of our leaders, China and India relations have exhibited a very good momentum of growth and entered a phase of development.

“I think we can all recall that since April, it has been only three months, President Xi and Prime Minister Modi met in Wuhan, in Qingdao, and in Johannesburg in South Africa.

“Three important meetings between of the two leaders and they have reached important understandings which added fresh and strong impetus to our bilateral ties,” Zhang added. (IANS)