China’s ‘Geopolitical’ Concern As It Welcomes India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor After G-20 Summit

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New Delhi: Days After India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor was announced on the sidelines of the G20 summit, China said on Monday that it welcomes the initiative so long it doesn’t become a “geopolitical tool”, even as it downplayed Italy’s plan to pull out of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Beijing welcomes all initiatives that truly help developing countries build infrastructure and promote connectivity and common development, reported news agency PTI.

Responding to a question on China’s reaction to the new corridor, the ministry in a written response to PTI, said “At the same time, we advocate that various connectivity initiatives should be open, inclusive, and form synergy, and should not become geopolitical tools.”

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to launch the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor which includes India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, France, Italy, Germany, and the US.

“Today we all have reached an important and historic partnership. In the coming times, it will be a major medium of economic integration between India, West Asia and Europe,” Modi said.

He further stated that the corridor will give a new direction to connectivity and sustainable development of the entire world.

“This is a big deal. This is a real big deal,” US President Joe Biden said while announcing the pact, aimed at promoting clean energy and better communities. “As we work to address infrastructure gaps across low- and middle-income countries, we need to maximise the impacts of our investments,” he added.

According to the analysts, the new corridor is the first global connectivity project to rival China’s BRI which drew criticism for its debt sustainability, especially from smaller countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aimed to establish connectivity between China and regions spanning Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf, Africa, and Europe with a network of land and sea routes rebuilding the old Silk Road trade route.

However, as the decade-old BRI, has encountered substantial investment challenges, China faces a significant setback. Italy has announced its plan to withdraw from the initiative. According to the Italian Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, the initiative “did not yield the anticipated results,” and several Italian political parties opposed their country’s involvement.

Italy’s decision comes at a time when China announced plans to hold the third conference of BRI in Beijing next month.

Asked whether the BRI issue figured in the Li-Meloni talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a media briefing in Beijing that both leaders had exchanged views on important issues in bilateral relations and agreed to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in joint pursuit of prosperity and development.

On the BRI, she said, “Ten years since the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward, more than 150 countries and cooperation partners in a wide range of areas have joined the initiative, which has delivered tangible benefits to the people of participating countries”. “It serves the interests of all partner countries to further tap into its potential for cooperation.” 

She further added that China and Italy are both ancient civilizations on either end of the ancient Silk Road. “We can further deepen practical cooperation in various fields and work for further growth of our comprehensive strategic partnership,” she stated.