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China ready to sign friendship treaties with all neighbours: Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said that China stands ready to sign treaties of friendship and cooperation with all its neighbours to provide strong support for the development of bilateral relations as well as prosperity and stability in the region.

Beijing: Signalling China's readiness to sign friendship treaties with neighbouring countries to build trust, President Xi Jinping today unveiled an action plan to implement the grandiose 'Silk Road' infrastructure projects under a USD 40 billion special fund.

"Treaties of friendship have been signed by China with eight neighbouring countries. China stands ready to sign such a treaty with all its neighbours and to provide strong support for bilateral relations as well as prosperity and stability in the region," he said while addressing the China-sponsored Boao Forum for Asia annual conference held in the country's southern island of Hainan.

Referring to an old Chinese proverb - "Close neighbours are better than distant relatives" - Xi said the oceans of Asia should be turned into seas of peace and called for a common, comprehensive, sustainable and a cooperative security for Asia.

About 15 world leaders, including Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena attended the meeting.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Tata Group Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata along with 1,800 officials and business leaders from abroad also attended.

There is no official representation from India, though Supreme Court judge, Justice Jagdhish Singh Khehar attended the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Justices Forum being held on the sidelines of the Boao Forum.

Former president of the Confederation of the Indian Industry (CII) Shekhar Dutta headed an Indian delegation at the conference.

Stressing on neighbourhood diplomacy, Xi today unveiled the document outlining the principles, framework and cooperation priorities and mechanisms of his ambitious Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) projects for which he has already set up a solely China-funded USD 40 billion Silk Road Fund which has been operationalised recently.

While the historic Silk Road mainly connects China with Europe through Central Asia, the proposed project also incorporates the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor (BCIM) and the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor that passes through through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The MSR is an initiative that aims to connect China's ports with ports in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Greece and Kenya.

"The creation of maritime facilities with Chinese assistance will have an obligation for the host country to serve Chinese interests including strategic interests," a document circulated at the forum said. 

Under the Silk Road initiative, roads, energy, information technology and industrial parks are to be started in the coming year, it said.

"The number of these major infrastructure projects could reach hundreds and will spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China's other neighbouring countries," it said.

India is taking part in the BCIM but is non-committal about the MSR due to its strategic concerns over Chinese domination in the Indian Ocean.

China's first MSR project, the USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City in Sri Lanka has ran into trouble as the new government has suspended it and called for renegotiation of terms agreed to by the previous government.

Chinese officials say that besides the Silk Road fund, the projects will be backed by the China-sponsored USD 50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for which India and about 30 other countries have signed up, and the USD 50 billion BRICS Development Bank.

The Silk Road is open to all countries and international and regional organisations for engagement and honours mutual respect and market operation to seek common prosperity, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the plan as saying.

It also said China will provide 10,000 government scholarships to countries along the route every year to promote educational cooperation.

"The programmes of development will be open and inclusive, not exclusive. They will be a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself," Xi said in his address.

Xi also has called for Asian economic integration with Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

Allaying fears over the slowing down of Chinese economy which decelerated to 7.4 percent last year prospects of declining below seven this year he said the world second largest economy is highly resilient and has much potential, which gives enough room to leverage a host of policy tools.

He said in the next five years, China will import more than USD 10 trillion worth of goods while Chinese investment abroad will exceed USD 500 million and over 500 million Chinese tourists will visit abroad, he said.

"China will stick to its basic state policy of opening up, improve its investment climate, and protect the lawful rights and interests of investors," Xi said.

Xi noted that the people of Asian countries could drive this train of Asia's development to take Asia to an even brighter future.

He also proposed a conference of dialogue among Asian civilisations to be held with an aim to boost regional cooperation and development.

Such a conference will provide a platform to enhance interactions among the youth, people's groups, local communities and the media and to form a network of think-tank cooperation, so as to add to Asian people's rich cultural life and contribute to more vibrant regional cooperation and development, he said.