A "nervous" India cannot stop its neighbours from joining China's Belt and Road project even if it wants to stay out of it, a commentary in a Chinese daily said.
The article in the Global Times, which came after India skipped the Belt and Road summit on Sunday, said New Delhi's opposition to the project was "regrettable".
It also said India could still change its mind and join the initiative before it is too late.
"China would never force any country to participate in the Belt and Road if it was too sceptical and nervous to do so," the Global Times said.
"It is regrettable but not a problem that India still maintains its strong opposition, even though China has repeatedly said its position on the Kashmir dispute would not change because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)," said the article written by Global Times reporter Wang Jiamei.
"India also cited the potential debt burden as one of its other concerns, saying that connectivity initiatives must follow the principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create an unsustainable debt burden for communities."
"It is strange that the onlooker is more anxious than the players. While India cares about its neighbours' debt burden, the neighbours appear willing to take on more," it said.
"On Saturday, Pakistan and China inked new deals worth nearly $500 million, covering airport, sea port and highway construction. As regards to the potential debt burden, Pakistan's repayments will peak at around $5 billion in 2022, but this will be offset by transit fees charged in the CPEC."
Last week, the article noted, "Nepal officially signed a deal with China to join the Belt and Road project, and the country is also reportedly in talks with Beijing to build a cross-border rail link that may cost up to $8 billion."
"As such, given the active responses from countries along the route, there is no way for India to impede its neighbouring countries from cooperating with China in infrastructure development."
The Gobal Times aid, "China has formally invited India to join the project. If India doesn't want to take a part on the stage, then it should just be a good member of the audience. The role is still available if India changes its mind, but it may only be a small role if it is left too late."
(Gaurav Sharma is the IANS Beijing-based correspondent. He can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)
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