Indian diplomat’s mic suddenly goes silent while opposing the China’s BRI project

Priyanka Sohoni

Beijing: While addressing the just concluded second United Nations Sustainable Transport Conference and voicing strongly against the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship project – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, First Secretary Priyanka Sohoni’s mic went curiously silent.

The sudden “mic failure” at the UN meet hosted by China here from October 14 to 16 created a flutter and took several minutes to restore.

Even the video of the next speaker started playing but it was stopped by UN under-secretary-general Liu Zhenmin, the former vice foreign minister of China, who urged the Indian diplomat, Priyanka Sohoni to continue her speech.

After the mic system was restored at the conference hall, Liu said, “Dear participants, we are sorry. We are confronting some technical problems and played the video of the next speaker. I am sorry for that” and asked Sohoni to resume her speech.

“You are lucky..You are back and welcome back,” he told Sohoni following which the Indian diplomat resumed her speech without interruption.

“We share the international community’s desire for enhancing physical connectivity and believe it should bring greater economic benefits to all in an equitable and balanced ma9nner,” Sohoni said.

“Expansion and strengthening of physical connectivity is an integral part of India’s economic and diplomatic initiatives,” she said.

“There have been some references to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at this conference. Here, I wish to say that as far as China’s BRI is concerned, we are uniquely affected by it. It’s inclusion of the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a flagship project impinges on India’s sovereignty,” Sohoni said.

The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to enhance China’s influence and also link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

The USD 60 billion CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of the BRI.

India has been vocally objecting to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Beijing for its part is playing down India’s objections, saying it is an economic initiative and has not affected its principled stand on the Kashmir issue.

“No country can support an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Sohoni said.

“This aside there are also larger issues regarding how connectivity initiatives should be pursued. We are of the firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms,” she said.

“They must follow principles of openness, transparency and financial responsibility and be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of nations. India for its part abides by these principles and stands ready to make collective efforts for sustainable development through a human-centric approach,” she said.

Sohoni also said that India has adopted bold measures in the realm of clean energy, energy efficiency, deforestation and biodiversity.

“We have ambitious renewable energy target of 450 GW by 2030 demonstrating our commitment towards combating climate change. It is not without a reason therefore we are among few countries whose NDC (Nationally Determined are two degrees compatible,” she said.

“We are on track and exceed our commitments and targets from Paris. A drop of 24 per cent in emission intensity has already been achieved,” she said.

Earlier, a few speakers ahead of Sohoni, a Pakistani diplomat had showered praise on the BRI and its flagship project CPEC, terming it as a “game-changer” for the region.

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