India’s transport minister Nitin Gadkari said yesterday that Chinese companies will not be permitted to construct roads in India, including in joint ventures with Indian firms.
His remarks come amid growing border tensions between the rival neighbours, which saw 20 Indian soldiers killed in a brawl earlier this month.
Gadkari said prequalification requirements for major projects would be relaxed so that Indian contractors can bid for them without teaming up with foreign firms.
Chinese companies are not as active in Indian infrastructure as they are in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but this move signals an end to the investment and cooperation sought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first term when he prioritised infrastructure development.
For now, that era of burgeoning cooperation is over.
"We will not give permission to joint ventures that have Chinese partners for road construction. We have taken a firm stand that if they come via joint venture in our country, we will not allow it," Gadkari said in an interview with Press Trust of India, reported in newspaper The Hindu.
If Chinese companies are taking part in joint-venture bids now, those projects would be retendered, the minister said.
On boosting prospects for Indian contractors, the minister said: "We have taken a decision to relax norms for our companies to ensure that they qualify in bidding in large projects. I have directed the Highways Secretary (Giridhar Aramane) and NHAI Chairman (SS Sandhu) to hold a meeting for relaxing technical and financial norms so that our companies can qualify to work."
Image: Better days: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan in Ahmedabad, 17 September 2014 (Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India)