China Pledges USD 40 Bn for Silk Road Plan

K J M Verma/Beijing
China Pledges USD 40 Bn for Silk Road Plan

Chinese President Xi Jinping today announced USD 40-billion fund to build mega Silk Road projects criss-crossing Asia, ahead of the key APEC summit to be attended by US President Barrack Obama and other top global leaders to bolster infrastructure in the region.

China will contribute USD 40 billion to set up a Silk Road Fund to "break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity" by building a financing platform, Xi told a neighbourhood leaders summit attended by leaders from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and Tajikistan.

The fund will be used to provide investment and financial support to carry out infrastructure, resources, industrial cooperation and other projects related to connectivity for countries along the "Belt and Road", Xi said, referring to China's Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives.

He said China will provide inter-connectivity training for 20,000 people from the neighbouring countries in the next five years.

The timing of the announcement was significant as it came a day ahead of a separate meeting of the leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) where China is locking horns with the US to wrest control of the leadership of the region.

The APEC summit is being held from November 10 to 11 in the Chinese capital.

China's Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road initiatives are widely regarded as strategic moves by Beijing to checkmate US Pivot to Asia and US plans to develop a silk road through Afghanistan.

The Chinese plan involved a broad connectivity platform both by road and sea for the movement of goods and products.

It involves revival of the ancient Silk Road between China and Europe via Afghanistan and Central Asia, besides linking Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor as well as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

India has expressed backing for BCIM but is non-committal about the Maritime Silk Road plan, the final contours of which were yet to be announced.

Chinese observers say together with China-sponsored newly established Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)-- in which India and 20 others joined as founding members -- the fund could provide solid boost to infrastructure development in the region.

Xi had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the summit during their first meeting in Brazil.

Indian officials said Modi could not make it to the summit due to his commitments to attend next week's East Asia Summit in Myanmar followed by G-20 leaders meeting in Australia.

The Prime Minister is expected to meet Chinese leaders on the sidelines of these meetings.

Xi said the fund will be "open" to active participation by investors from both within and outside of Asia.

China is ready to provide more public goods through connectivity development to its Asian neighbours, who are welcome "to get on board the train of China's development," he said.

On the sidelines of today's summit, Xi and Premier Li Keqiang met leaders of several countries including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid who attended the summit.

China and Pakistan signed USD 46 billion worth of Chinese investments in Pakistan.

In his talks with Hamid, Xi welcomed Bangladesh's participation in the AIIB as a founding member.

Xi said China's vision to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road would create opportunities to expand trade and economic connectivity in the region.

He asked Bangladesh to push the building of the BCIM economic corridor linking Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.

Describing Bangladesh as an important partner of China in South Asia and Indian Ocean region, Xi said their bilateral ties feature friendship, trust and cooperation.

Hamid said Bangladesh expects to learn from China's experience in poverty alleviation and seize the chance brought by the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

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