Beijing: China on Thursday slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for criticising its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during his just concluded India visit, saying that the diplomat was under a "spell" to constantly blighting the ambitious Chinese project.
The BRI, which is boycotted by India as it comprises the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, has come under constant criticism of the US which says that the massive loans being doled out by Bejing for different projects, especially in smaller countries over and above their capacity to pay, has resulted in long-term indebtedness.
At a joint press briefing with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday in New Delhi, Pompeo said, "There are a myriad of opportunities that lay before us in the Indo-Pacific region. Countries...which have signed on to the Belt and Road projects have found Beijing's deals come not with strings attached, but with shackles."
"Countries are looking to provide infrastructure, digital connectivity, and energy supplies to their people without relinquishing their sovereignty," he said.
Reacting to Pompeo's statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing that he doesn't know "if Pompeo is under a spell or something", but he keeps talking about the BRI wherever he goes.
"Unfortunately people don't seem to be listening to him and his slandering of the BRI and his efforts to try to persuade others away from the initiative doesn't seem to be working either," he said, adding that a large number of countries and international organisations had already signed up for the project.
"If indeed the BRI comes with shackles then why have so many countries and international organisations supported and participated in it? Without BRI projects who will help these countries with their infrastructure development and economic growth? Will it be the US who is putting America First? Will the US actually take concrete measures?" Pompeo asked.
The criticism of the BRI has become more pronounced after China acquired Sri Lanka's Hambantota project for 99 years lease as debt swap in 2017.
Maldives is also weighed down by $3 billion in debt to China. Male owes the money to Beijing for the infrastructure projects undertaken by Chinese companies during the former China-leaning president Abdulla Yameen's tenure in office.