Recently China has organized a summit called Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), in which high level participants from more than 120 countries arrived, including nearly 30 head of the states. India was a conspicuous absentee, even though China, on multiple occasions, requested India to be a participant of this initiative. Since we are witnessing a potential watershed event in the world history, hence I thought of bringing some details about it.
In past quarter century, if one thing which have caught the imagination of the world, it would surely be the phenomenal rise of China. For almost 30 years double digit growth, China’s incremental jump in the economic dimension has reshaped the world order and now we are moving towards the multi-polar world, where America or Russia is not the sole dominant power.
With the rise of China comes its desire to influence the world order. There are several tools to influence it. Such as by showing technological advancement, increasing the influence on other countries, by enhancing the infrastructural aspects, by increasing trade with other nations etc. So in 2013, its president came up with an ambitious project called One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, which China claims that it is one of the most ambitious project of 21st century and it is having potential to reshape the world.
What is Belt and Road Initiative?
This initiative is brought to fore by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. From the inspiration of Old Silk Route, Belt and Road Initiative or One Belt One Road initiative is a connectivity project which aims to connect the mainland China to the parts of Asia, Europe and some parts of Africa as well. There are 60 countries through which this project will run. China is willing to finance these infrastructural project as a loan to the host nation. Once these areas will be connected, a whole new wave of globalization can emerge. It will have a positive impact on trade, commerce, integration of economy, cultural connectivity, integration of the least connected area, increasing the living standards of millions etc.
This initiative is having two limbs; one is connecting the Land Area through rail and road and the other is maritime connectivity by building ports and supplementary infrastructures.
Land connectivity scheme is known as Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime connectivity project is known as 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Plausible intentions of China Behind this project
- By implementing this, China will emerge as a dominant player in the world order as this project will cover the 63% of the world population, 30% of the current world GDP, and 35% of the trade happens in these area.
- China has vast cash reserve in Renminbi (Chinese currency) which is equivalent to US $ 21 trillion approx twice its GDP. So by financing these infrastructural projects these cash deposits, which is presently lying ideal, can bring revenues through interests. It will also help in internationalization of its currency.
- China is having strategic leverage over manufacturing sector, so by integrating the Eurasian regions it will enhance its market where it can sell its product.
- It can win few allies, which it lacks as compare to its rival US by financing infrastructure.
- It will have a strategic and military advantage as compare to US, which also sees these regions very significant in terms of Geo Politics.
- It will help China to bring its least developed Western Provinces in direct contact with the other nations through infrastructure, which in turn, will benefit its balanced regional growth.
India did not take part in this initiative, which is criticized by many both at home and in China. They argue, India which is struggling in infrastructures should have embraced Chinese proposal as it will help via financing. By remaining out India is secluding itself from the new world order which is emerging. It will have a deleterious impact in the to its economy in long term. The Indian subcontinent which is least integrated can get an impetus from the Chinese sponsored scheme and will be win-win situation for all.
However, Indian government firmly articulated its reservations to this project.
- Infringing Sovereignty: One part of the project, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, passes through Gilgit Baltistan, which lies in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, amd claimed by India. Since it is a disputed region and China did not had a deliberations with India with this respect, India thinks it as a infringement on its sovereignty.
- Since the details of the project are not in the public domain, India is skeptic about it.
- India does not see it as a mere economic initiative, as nearly 30,000 security personnel will be deployed to protect the infrastructure. Hence it sees a threat to its security.
- India sees the high interest rates to finance the project as a Chinese “web trap”.
- Along with this the assessment of project cost is not transparent, in the absence of transparency India is unwilling to be a part of this project.
- China recently has behaved as an obstructionists in two cases which was concerned with India one in NSG and other in declaring Jash-e-Mohamed leader Mashod Azhar as a terrorists. So India gave the Chinese the taste of its own medicine. And gave a strong signal that India is not going to be an easy ride if its concerned is ignored.
In my view India rightly opted out from the Belt and Road Initiative as infringement upon sovereignty is a very serious concern. Along with this the benefit which China tries to put is not as clear as of the investment. But India should work in the field of regional connectivity firstly by focusing on its internal infrastructure and then after the infrastructure of the South East region.