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Arun Jaitley questions China’s strategic intent behind OBOR ambitions

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-05-2017 Utpal Bhaskar

Srinagar: Finance and defence minister Arun Jaitley on Friday questioned China’s real intention behind developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of its showpiece “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) infrastructure initiative.

India has expressed concerns over “sovereignty issues”, with the CPEC cutting through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India gave the OBOR conference a miss this week over Beijing’s insensitivity to India’s concerns.

Jailtey pointed out that there have been instances in the past when a strategic presence has been established in the name of connectivity.

“Economic development of the state (Jammu & Kashmir) is our priority,” Jaitley said in a briefing to reporters in Srinagar on the sidelines of the 14th meeting of the goods and services tax (GST) council. “Let nobody be envious of what is happening on the other side of the border,” he added.

OBOR, first unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to put billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Jaitley had first articulated India’s position at a round table discussion on Asia’s economic outlook organized by the Asian Development Bank earlier this month at Yokohama, Japan.

Jaitley, who visited the line of control (LoC) earlier in the day to take stock of the security situation, also made a distinction between protesters on the streets and the militants involved in operations against security forces.

He said that the government would want the average Kashmir citizen irrespective of his politics to be on the Indian side of the debate. He, however, warned that those killing security forces and their fellow citizens cannot be given the same treatment.

This comes at a time when the army along with the Jammu & Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force has been conducting combing operations to flush out terrorists in south Kashmir.

“Our priority at the moment is to install normalcy in the south Kashmir,” Jaitley said.

India accuses Pakistan of pushing in terrorists through the LoC to foment terrorism in Indian-administered Kashmir—something Pakistan denies. New Delhi also says that Pakistan has been violating a 2003 ceasefire along the border to push terrorists under covering fire.

Jaitley also spelt out the government’s playbook in bringing normalcy to the border state. While a section would comprise security measures, another would entail citizen-friendly measures, he said.

The GST council meeting in Srinagar, which ended on Friday, is being viewed as part of a larger strategy to craft a new narrative for the troubled state as the finance ministers and officials of 32 states and Union territories converged in Srinagar.

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