India has no proposal for bilateral trade with Afghanistan to import Lithium, MoS Muraleedharan says

Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Friday rejected any claims that India is in talks with a bilateral trade agreement with Afghanistan for the import of Lithium.

"There is no proposal for such a bilateral trade agreement with Afghanistan," said Muraleedharan in response to an unstarred question in Lok Sabha.

Answering whether the Government is aware of the effect of extending China Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, the Union Minister said, the government has seen reports regarding the proposed extension of the so-called CPEC.

The minister said any such actions by any party directly infringe on India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. "Such activities are inherently illegal, illegitimate and unacceptable, and will be treated accordingly by India."

He said India's position on CPEC has been clear and consistent. "It passes through parts of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh which are under illegal and forcible occupation of Pakistan and hence impinges on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity of India."

"Government has also conveyed to the Chinese side its concerns about their activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and has asked them to cease these activities," he added.

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Muraleedharan also explained that India is of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms. "It must follow the principles of openness, transparency and financial responsibility and must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of other nations."

He added that the government continues to closely monitor the developments in Afghanistan, including the evolving security situation and takes all necessary measures to safeguard our national interest.

Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the government has seen reports about third countries participating in projects of the CPEC projects, and any such activity by any party directly infringed on India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Addressing an MEA presser, spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India firmly and consistently opposes projects in the "so-called CPEC, which are in Indian territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan".

CPEC in Pakistan is worth over USD 46 billion, of which Balochistan is an integral part. Media reports said that China and Pakistan are planning to extend this project to Afghanistan.

CPEC, which was launched in 2015, is a part of China's most ambitious project 'Belt and Road Initiative', aimed at renewing the country's historic trade routes in the coastal countries of south-east Asia.

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