Notwithstanding New Delhi’s opposition to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has expressed confidence that its trade and economic links with India would intensify further in the coming years.

Addressing mediapersons from SAARC countries at the end of the first China-South Asia Cooperation Forum here on Friday evening, Li Jiming, the Director General of the Foreign Affairs Department of China’s Yunnan province, said India and China were currently discussing ways in which they could enhance bilateral ties in different fields.

In this connection, he noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met twice in the past two months to give a new direction to relations between their two countries. President Xi was giving a lot of importance of China’s ties with India, he added.

Li observed that the BRI project, the signature initiative of President Xi, had been launched after wide consultations with other countries for the mutual benefit of all nations. He did not agree with a suggestion that countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives could fall into China’s ‘debt trap’ because of the heavy investments Beijing was making in these countries.

The Chinese official parried a question on why China was not allowing Indian pharmaceutical and IT companies to enter the Chinese market. He, however, emphasised that China was taking steps to correct the huge trade imbalance it has in its favour with India and other South Asian countries. In this connection, he said China was organising a major trade fair in Shanghai in November that would provide countries in South Asia to market their products in his country.

Li said India was participating in a big way at the week-long 5th China-South Asia expo that was inaugurated on Thursday. He noted that Sailas Thangal, India’s Consul General in Guangzhou, was very optimistic about the promotion of trade relations between India and China.

Meanwhile, addressing the China-South Asia Cooperation Forum, Thangal, the Indian representative, said China and South Asia together had all the ingredients to emerge as the most promising regions in the world. India, he said, was ready to stand with China and South Asian countries to exchange ideas and enhance cooperation to rid the region of poverty.

The forum, at its day-long meeting, identified connectivity, business, local government, poverty reduction and alleviation and people-to-people exchanges as the key areas for cooperation between China and South Asian countries.

It also decided to set up a permanent secretariat and hold annual meetings of the forum for strengthening linkages between China and South Asia.