- The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project was launched by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
- The project intends to link Asia with Europe and Africa through an overland “belt” and a maritime silk “road”.
- The project consists of two main components: land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and Ocean going “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).
Why has China launched it?:-
Bridging the infrastructure gap in Asia:-
- According to China, the Belt and Road Initiative will bridge the ‘infrastructure gap’ and thus accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe.
Economic motives of China:-
- OBOR is aimed at boosting domestic growth in China which has slipped in recent years. In 2016 China grew by 6.7% which is the lowest since 1990.
- According to experts OBOR is a second phase of ‘opening up’. Experts also believe that China feels “isolated” as it is not involved with G7, and is limited to the BRICS countries. Thus OBOR provides China another window to continue its economic expansion.
- OBOR also provides China a market to sells its product produce esp. steel. With the massive demand creation of the BRI project, China will solve the problem of huge overcapacity in its domestic industries, especially steel.
Key highlights of the recent forum:-
- Agreement was signed to deepen cooperation on China-Europe railway.
- China pledged additional RMB 100 billion ($14.5 billion) into the Silk Road Fund.
- China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank will set up new lending schemes of 250 billion ($36.2 billion) and RMB 130 billion ($18.8 billion), respectively, for Belt and Road projects.
- China will also provide RMB 60 billion ($8.7 billion) for humanitarian efforts focused on food, housing, health care, and poverty alleviation.
India and BRI:-
Why India has not joined BRI?
- India didn’t attended the belt and road forum, not even as an observer as India is apprehensive about the belt and road initiative.
India’s reservations, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, are threefold:-
- The primary objection is that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (part of BRI) passes though Gilgit-Baltistan region and thus ignores India’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. According to political commentators, merely changing the name of CPEC to CSEC (China South Asian Economic Corridor) – as China has offered to India – will not address India’s grievances.
Second, BRI would lead to Chinese neo-colonialism causing:-
- Unsustainable debt burden for communities; and
- An adverse impact on the environment in the partner countries.
- There is a lack of transparency in China’s agenda. Some experts believe that
- B&RI is not just an economic project but one that China is promoting for political control.
Criticism of India’s decision:-
Few experts have criticized India for not joining BRI as:-
- India may also face some difficult choices in the road ahead, because as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and a co-founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank it will be asked to support many of the projects under the B&RI.
- By this India will isolate itself amidst the apparently growing international support for the ambitious project.
- The partner countries will benefit as this will lead to inflow of billions of dollars in loans for projects.
- Even countries such as U.S. and Japan, which are not a part of the B&RI has sent official delegations.
- Delhi must step up the effort to modernize and deepen J&K’s connectivity with the rest of India.
- While China asks India to downplay the sovereignty argument in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, but it objects to India’s activity in Arunachal Pradesh.
- In Arunachal, India should accelerate the state’s economic development and its connectivity to the rest of India.
- India should realize the strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar islands that sit across China’s planned maritime silk routes in the eastern Indian Ocean.
- Thus we should devote high-level political attention to the long-neglected islands. By that only we can cope with the maritime dimension of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Improve internal connectivity:-
- India should improve internal connectivity in line of China’s BRI which was built on the existing internal “Go West” strategy launched two decades ago, that has focused on unifying China’s domestic market and connecting its developed east coast with the interior provinces.
Improve connectivity with neighbors:-
- India should modernize connectivity across its land and maritime frontiers with its neighbors in the Subcontinent, South East Asia and the Gulf by completing projects in these regions.
Collaborate with Japan for Quality Infrastructure:-
- India can work with nations like Japan and multilateral institutions in developing regional connectivity in the Subcontinent and beyond.
- Japan has already outlined a Belt and Road initiative of its own, called the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure under which Japan has put up nearly $150 billion to support infrastructure projects all across the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia.
- India should also improve access to Europe by expediting projects like INSTC and others.