Beijing: China on Thursday slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for “slandering” its Belt and Road project during his India visit where he said the Beijing’s connectivity-project “comes not with strings attached but shackles”. Also Read - Captured Chinese Soldier Who Strayed Into Ladakh Handed Over by Indian Army

The US has long accused China of ensnaring poor countries in “debt trap” by providing them with loans under its mega-Belt and Road project that aims to connect Europe with Asia via a network of roads, sea lanes and ports. Also Read - US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Defence Chief Mark Esper to Visit India For 2+2 Talks on Oct 26-27

India strongly opposes the artery of the Belt and Road project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the route of which passes through the disputed part of Kashmir held by Islamabad and claimed by New Delhi. Also Read - COVID-19 Vaccine Update: China’s Sinovac Vaccine Appears Safe in Late-stage Clinical Trial

Pompeo, who is a China hawk and harsh critic of the Chinese project, raked up the issue on Wednesday during his India visit.

“Countries in this part of the world that have signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative projects have found that Beijing’s deal comes not with strings attached but shackles,” he said.

Beijing reacted sharply to the US Secretary of State’s remark, saying he seems to be “under a spell or something”.

“I don’t know if Mr. Pompeo is under a spell or something, but he keeps talking about BRI wherever he goes. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to be listening to him and his slandering of the BRI,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

“And his efforts to try to persuade others to stay from the initiative don’t seem to be working either. Why is it? Mr. Pompeo should give it some thought. If the BRI comes with shackles then why so many countries and organizations 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? I think the international community sees that crystal clear and Mr. Pompeo know this deep in his heart. Here, I would like to advise the US to stop their one-man show because as there is no audience,” Geng added.