Beijing, Mar 20 (PTI) Premier Li Keqiang today said that China’s business cooperation and projects like the Belt and Road Initiative with other countries are devoid of “political strings” and based on “market principles”.

The BRI, a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013, has become a major sticking point in India-China bilateral ties.

India had also boycotted last year’s Belt and Road Forum organised by China.

The BRI, aimed at promoting network of roads, ports and rail networks all over the world to spread China’s influence, is now expected to vigorously pushed by Xi after the National People’s Congress on March 11 removed the two-term limit for the Chinese president.

The BRI and concerns about “political implications” over Chinese investments in foreign countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka figured in Premier Li’s customary yearly press meet today.

Li, 62, was re-elected for another five-year term by the Chinese Parliament, after his name was endorsed by President Xi.

China’s business cooperation with other countries follows market principles and business rules, Li said.

“In pursuing the BRI, we follow the principle of seeking shared benefit through consultation and collaboration”, he said and denied any political implication, in an apparent reference to China taking over the Hambantota port of Sri Lanka as a debt swap.

China’s “assistance has never come with political strings attached and it is not making any infiltration”, Li said.

“It will be a misunderstanding to interpret that China is playing such a role seeking strategic expansion”, he said.

He said China needs a peaceful and stable environment internationally and in the neighbourhood so that there will be more win-win opportunities for development.

“The (Chinese) government is most clear about the heavy agenda it still faces”, he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.