Walk with us on new silk road, China says

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Giving final touches to its ambitious plan to build a wide network of new silk routes on land and sea to enhance global connectivity, China has invited India to join president Xi Jinping's pet project that would revive the ancient trade route and benefit the region.

"From the historical point of view, India is the converging point of maritime silk road (MSR) and the ancient silk road on land. For more than 2,000 years India had very good exchanges with China through the south silk road," Gao Zhenting, councillor, department of international economic affairs told PTI.

Gao took a team of diplomats and journalists to showcase China's prep-arations to build the new silk road (NSR) from the historic city of Xian, once the flourishing capital of imperial China.

Xian houses the Wild Goose Pagoda, built in memory of Xuanzang (Huien Tsang), who visited India in 600 AD via

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan and returned with a treasure trove of Buddhist scriptures.

"We are open to all friendly neighbouring countries to participate in this one belt and one road but of course we will not force anyone to join nor we will give up if someone is not taking part," Gao said.

He denied the new projects were aimed at establishing China's influence, and said Beijing will not establish a new mechanism for the silk routes, referring to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN and APEC and other similar organisations.

China's plans include revival of the ancient silk road from Xian possibly to Constantinople through parts of Pakistan, central Asia and Turkey.

The second silk road is named BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) and the third one is MSR, connecting China's Fujian coast with Asia and the world.

China's proposed economic corridor runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India has expressed reservations as this is a disputed region.

A Pakistani diplomat in China, Shazab Abbas, who was part of the delegation, said his country will be the "harbinger" for implementing the silk road project.

"The (China-Pakistan) energy corridor will be built on the ancient silk road which practically passes through Pakistan and link with Middle East and India," he said, adding the corridor will be a gamechanger for the entire region and a driving force for real cultural and economic integration.

For its part, India does not have a direct link with NSR as it runs through parts of Pakistan. The Wagah border point is closed for Indian goods other than selective bilateral trade. India has no direct access to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.

India, however, is linked to BCIM and the MSR. While New Delhi has endorsed the BCIM, it sought more details from Beijing about MSR for which China plans to make effective use of the newly developed port in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, posing strategic concerns to India.

Gao said the final blueprint of the silk roads will be released in about two months. The final document was expected to contain details of the extent of road networks.

Funding for the projects is expected to be provided by the newly established Brics Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIDB) being set up by China for which it has invited India to be a member.

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