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A top Chinese diplomat on Wednesday said his country would like India to look beyond mutual differences and join its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative in interest of the development of both countries. "We will welcome India joining (BRI initiative) as both India and China are developing," said Chinese Consul-general in Kolkata Ma Zhanwu in the first media interaction by a Chinese diplomat in India after the recent Belt and Road conference in Beijing. Zhanwu was replying to a question whether China would take any special initiative to get India to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. "We have differences and some (of them) are of serious nature. But we should look beyond the differences and concentrate on shared interests for development," the Chinese diplomat said. Zhanwu also reaffirmed that his country's ambitious One Belt and One Road Initiative, renamed as BRI, does not alter its stand on the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, saying it is a bilateral issue to be resolved only through negotiation. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative, does not affect China's position in Kashmir, he said. "China's position is clear that this (Kashmir issue) is a dispute between India and Pakistan left from the past and it is for them to resolve the dispute through negotiations," Zhanwu said. Asked about addressing India's concerns and opposition over the CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Chinese consul said "the dispute was there before CPEC." "CPEC is a project that's between China and Pakistan and I think work has started (on it)," Zhanwu said when asked whether China would consider rethinking the CPEC alignment given India's concerns. He, however, asserted that "CPEC does not affect China's position on Kashmir. China is neutral to this.
It is for India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute through bilateral negotiations," he said. India boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) held from May 14 to 15. The meeting was attended by 29 world leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. India skipped the meeting due to its sovereignty concerns over the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). He also reasserted China's stand that BRI was not meant for geopolitical manoeuvring and claimed that apprehensions in certain sections about this has no basis. "Certain sections said that China is going to use this to encircle India," Zhanwu said. "We have made it very clear that it will not be a geopolitical manoeuvring," he said. "The Chinese president has made it clear that the initiative would not resort to the old practice of geopolitical manoeuvring," he said.