Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

The new game changer in Pakistan BY INSIGHTS · MAY 28, 2016

Summary:

Much hype has been created around the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, since it was announced in April 2015. It is a game-changer and is expected to transform Pakistan into an Asian Giant, say some experts in Pak. This gains even more prominence when contrasted to the $5 billion investment made by the U.S. in the period 2009-15 in Pakistan.

What is this project all about?

The 3,000-km corridor linking China’s far-western region to Pakistan’s south-western Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is massive project of road, rail, energy schemes, pipelines and investment parks.

  • The corridor is also expected to serve as a terminal for China to pump oil procurement from Persian Gulf. It is also being seen as a project to strengthen China’s connectivity with neighbouring countries and an initiative set to aid strategic framework for pragmatic cooperation between the nations.
  • The corridor would transform Pakistan into a regional hub and give China a shorter and cheaper route for trade with much of Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • The corridor — expected to be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity — gives China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
  • The corridor will pass through Pakistan’s poor Baluchistan province, where a long-running separatist insurgency that the army has vowed to crush will raise questions about the feasibility of the plan.

Developments so far:

In this regard, China has signed 51 Memoranda of Understanding and projects worth $46 billion in sectors which include energy, infrastructure, security, and broader economic development. For energy, $34 billion investment has been envisaged and $12 billion in infrastructure projects. It is estimated that $15.5 billion would be spent on coal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric projects.

  • One of the key externalities to the Chinese investment is the fact that a “Special Security Division” of the Pakistan Army, consisting of perhaps 10,000 Pakistani troops and headed by a Major General, would be set up to guard the Chinese workers and their investment, particularly in Balochistan, given the militancy and insurgency in the province.
  • An important indicator of the work in progress is the huge Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) which has come into Pakistan over the last year. Pakistan has been an FDI-starved country for a host of reasons, but the first 10 months of the last fiscal year saw FDI increase by 5% on a year-on-year basis, to $1 billion, of which 55% came from China alone.
  • Also, China’s contribution to Pakistan’s FDI increased 152% over this period. The largest chunk of the FDI, 52%, has gone to the power sector, suggesting that work on CPEC-related infrastructure is underway.

gwadar1

 

Concerns:

However, some experts have questioned whether the Chinese investment in the country represents Chinese strategic and economic interests solely focussed on what will benefit China, much more than it does economic investment which might be of some benefit to Pakistan in the end.

Also, even a year after the initiation of the CPEC project, there continues to be much ambiguity about what the $46 billion project entails. There is little public information and disclosure as to what will be built, how it will be financed, and who will implement the various parts of the corridor, which includes roads, railway lines, pipelines and other infrastructure.

Benefits associated with this project:

The present Pakistan government can gain much with economic development linked to the corridor taking off, offering far greater prospects for re-election in 2018 when some projects come on stream. The Pakistani military is also an obvious beneficiary with its role in security and with its fingers in numerous infrastructure and economic projects around the corridor. Also, some underdeveloped regions in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will also benefit.

India’s concerns:

China has maintained that it merely wants to develop infrastructure in the area without undermining India’s position on the Kashmir dispute. However, India has expressed its reservations to China over the project as it is laid through the PoK. But, China defended the project by saying it will help in the regional development.

Way ahead:

The development of the CPEC is not necessarily bad for India or the region. On the contrary, Pakistan’s young people who find meaningful work in the projects are unlikely to enter the jihad factories. India should also welcome the impending joint initiative by China and Pakistan to curtail terror groups along the corridor and in Afghanistan, provided the two countries are able to steer clear of an exclusionary agenda, limiting India’s legitimate interests in Kabul.

India should welcome this initiative. CPEC will no doubt boost Pakistan’s progress and prosperity. It will also help Pakistan tackle many social and other internal problems, including the menace of religious extremism and terrorism. It is in India’s vital interest to see a stable, prosperous, progressive, united and democratic Pakistan, which is at peace with itself and also at peace with all its neighbours.

Conclusion:

However, CPEC in its present form does not comprehensively capture the benefits of regional cooperation. It needs to be extended into landlocked Afghanistan, which is in urgent need of national reconstruction after several decades of war. It should also be extended into India through Kashmir and Punjab, the two provinces which are today divided between India and Pakistan. Its linkage with the Indian side of Kashmir is especially important. A better strategy would be to propose the construction of a sub-corridor bringing CPEC into the Indian side of Kashmir and beyond. In addition, sea transport linking Pakistan, the western coast of India, Sri Lanka, the eastern coast of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar should be strengthened.

GS-2, GS-3, Internal security, International Relations, Uncategorized

India, Japan, U.S. to hold naval exercises

The Hindu

What happened?

  • In a move that is sure to raise eyebrows in Beijing, four Indian warships will join the navies of the United States and Japan in the second half of June for the next edition of Malabar exercises east of Okinawa, a Japanese island.

Exercise Malabar

  • Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Originally only a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S., Japan became a permanent partner of the exercise in 2015.
  • Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.
  • The annual Malabar series began in 1992, and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers, through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises

Australia wants to join too

  • Australia has repeatedly expressed interest in joining Malabar on a permanent basis and the United States had been pushing its inclusion, but India has so far resisted the move so as not to antagonise China.
Art & culture, GS-1, Uncategorized

Mogao caves reveal powerful India-China Buddhist link

The Hindu

News

  • In Gobi desert, there exist hundreds of caves, whose intricately painted walls and magnificent statues have described the journey of Buddhism.

Geography, and specifically the ancient Silk Road, had indeed played a foundational role

Dunhuang was a major point of intersection along the Silk Road, one of whose branch lines headed towards India.

Dunhuang

  • Dunhuang is a city in China’s northwestern Gansu Province, on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Once a frontier garrison on the Silk Road,
  • It is known today for the Mogao Caves, a complex of 492 grottoes.

Movement of people and goods along the branch proved critical in channeling a masterly artistic fusion that is evident at Dunhuang’s magnificent Mogao caves.

Along the route, which passes through the other oasis settlements of Miran, Endere, Niya, Keriya and Khotan, Yarkand in China’s Xinjiang province has long been recognised for its key role in the permeation of Buddhist influence from India.

Credit to monks, scholars, travelers

  • It was the monks, scholars and travelers frequenting the Silk Road, who brought the essential message of Buddha to China.

Art

  • it was the Graeco-Buddhist Gandhara School, known for depicting Buddha in human form, that finally reached China, heavily influencing the emergence of Serindian art, embodying a powerful Chinese artistic tradition as well.

Director of the Dunhuang Academy said:

  • “India is the root of Buddhist culture here. That is why we are willing to establish a long term stable relationship [with India]. This is the starting stage and there is long way to go, but there is a huge potential,”
  • He points out that once the ongoing process of digitising the artworks in Mogao caves is completed, the Chinese and the Indian sides should be ready to work together to hold joint exhibitions.

Culture as the unifying strand

  • Dunhuang Academy stresses that academic visits should add another layer to this phased revival of cultural ties.
  • Deputy Mayor of Dunhuang, points out to establish a sister-city relationship between Dunhuang and Aurangabad. He says that the arrangement is a statement of intent by the two countries to leverage culture as a major strand for building Sino-Indian ties.
Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

China’s water hegemony in Asia

  • Severe drought has occurred in south east asia and the main reason for this is rapid construction of dam by China at upstreams. Now Beijing is trying to legitimatise it by releasing water to drought hit nation in Lower Mekong river basin i.e. China is touting the utility of its upstream structures in fighting droughts and floods.

Analysis

It shows China’s newfound power to control the flow of a life-sustaining resource and thus increasing lower basin Nation’s dependence on China’s goodwill and charity.

Moreover with a further 14 dams being built or planned by China on the Mekong, this dependence on Chinese goodwill is set to deepen.

This has given edge to China to push its Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) initiative as an alternative to the lower-basin states’ Mekong River Commission.

What is Mekong River Commission?

  • The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is an intergovernmental body concerned with the Mekong River basin and charged “to promote and co-ordinate sustainable management and development of water and related resources for the countries’ mutual benefit and the people’s well-being by implementing strategic programmes and activities and providing scientific information and policy advice.
  • But China has spurned it over the years. China is only dialogue partner and not member of it whish shows its intention to take part in discussions but not to take on any legal obligations.
  • China’s refusal to join the 1995 Mekong treaty, which created the commission, has stunted the development of an inclusive, rules-based basin community to deal with water- and environment-related challenges.

What is its Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) initiative?

LMC, a political initiative emphasizing Chinese “cooperation”, is intended to help marginalize the commission, an institution with legally binding rules and regulations.

The LMC project is also designed to overshadow the US-sponsored Lower Mekong Initiative, which seeks to overcome Chinese opposition to the Mekong treaty by promoting integrated cooperation among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

How China is in the process of establishing its hegemony?

  • By forcibly absorbing the Tibetan plateau (the giant incubator of Asia’s main river systems) and Xinjiang (the starting point of the Irtysh and the Illy), China became the source of transboundary river flows to the largest number of countries in the world, extending from the Indo-China peninsula and South Asia to Kazakhstan and Russia.
  • Along with this it is continuously constructing dams. Before the communists seized power, China had only 22 dams and now it has more than 90000 dams.
  • Now, country’s dam builders, in fact, are shifting their focus from the dam-saturated internal rivers (some of which, like the Yellow, are dying) to the international rivers.

Conclusion

Despite its centrality in Asia’s water map, China has rebuffed the idea of a water-sharing treaty with any neighbour. Against this background, the concern growing among downstream neighbours is that China is seeking to turn water into a potential political weapon. After all, by controlling the spigot for much of Asia’s water, China is acquiring major leverage over its neighbours’ behaviour in a continent already reeling under very low freshwater availability.

Thus the only hope that could temper its dam frenzy is a prolonged economic slowdown at home and flattening demand for electricity due to China’s already-slowing economic growth

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Raja-Mandala: Aligning with the far to balance the near

Issue
How India should calibrate its relationship with US and China

Expert Analysis

Policymakers in the foreign policy believe that expanding the military partnership with the United States might have huge negative consequences for Delhi’s engagement with Beijing. Thus they form US policy on the basis that, what China would think of it.

But the reality is otherwise. In Foreign Policy the nations have no permanent friends or allies but only permanent interests and every country calibrate its relationship with others with time. There are various instances when Chinese did that. Some of them are as follows:

  • If military cooperation with the US was the defining factor in China’s relations with other countries, Beijing should be utterly hostile to Islamabad. Instead they are all weather friends inspite of Pakistan being a longstanding military partner for the US.
  • In 1950 China signed military alliance with USSR  and a decade later China criticised Russia as a “social imperialist” and began to make advances to America. China, which denounced America’s military presence in Asia during the 1950s, was quite happy to justify it in the 1970s and 1980s as a useful counter to Soviet power.
  • Beijing mounts solid political pressure on Japan, America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, while maintaining close economic relations.
  • China woos South Korea that hosts nearly 28,000 US troops on its soil. Beijing deploys a carrot and stick policy towards Vietnam that is getting closer to America.

For China, this is about careful tailoring of its policies to specific contexts and not judging everyone by their ties with Washington. Ironically Some Chinese analysts seems to have better appreciation of Delhi’s changing policies than India’s own strategic community. They think Delhi today is playing a sophisticated game like Mao’s China that “aligned with the far” (America) to “balance the near” (the Soviet Union).

Neither Delhi nor Beijing, then, are innocent to geopolitical jousting. In the end, America is by no means the main problem between India and China. That lies elsewhere in their contestation of each other’s sovereignties across the Himalayas — in Kashmir, Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.

Delhi should focus instead on managing, if not resolving, the territorial issues and expanding economic partnership with Beijing. When India and China are not a political threat to each other and can make money from the markets of the other, they will have less reason to worry about their relations with third parties.

GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

SCO & India

As of July 2015, India has been accorded full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) along with Pakistan at its Ufa summit held in Russia.

  • SCO is a Eurasian economic, political and military organisation
  • HQ: Beijing, China
  • Established: 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders 6 countries viz. China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan
  • Since 2005, India was having an Observer status of SCO and had applied for full membership in 2014. India would be finally ratified in the member list by 2016

Connecting the dots with SCO

Per Chinese and Russian scholars, creation of SCO helped address the security problems and enhance economic cooperation in the Central Asia region. The Western discourse, however, has tended to see the SCO as a mechanism to counter-balance the influence of the United States in the region. Both are correct!

SCO is considered and tagged as anti-west. Behind the veils, it is alleged that SCO is going to be a NATO like military alliance in East. You might expect a question on that line and be asked to put India’s context in place.

However, China exaggeratedly says that the SCO was founded on a principle of non-alignment and functions as an effective stabilizer for regional security and peace. China has always maintained that the focus of SCO is on combating the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism, and extremism – and other unconventional security menaces.

Advantage India?

There are multiple benefits for India as well as the SCO which is concerned with security and stability in the Eurasian space.

  1. India’s presence will help moderate the anti-West bias of the grouping, which will calm Washington’s nerves to a considerable extent
  2. Greater engagement with India will also aid the organisation’s capability to improve regional economic prosperity and security
  3. Membership will give India an opportunity to play an active role in China’s Silk Road initiative which plans to link a new set of routes from the north and east of the country to an old network of routes in the greater Eurasian region.
  4. Indian interest in International North-South Transport Corridor to connect Mumbai with Abbas port in Iran. This route is shorter than the existing Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea
  5. SCO may also serve as guarantor for projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipelines, which are held by India due to security concerns.

India’s entry is also likely to tip the balance of power in favor of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Challenges ahead for SCO?

It is naive to expect that India’s differences with China regarding the border or its ties with Pakistan will magically disappear. The inclusion of Pakistan in the SCO will also make it difficult for India to enjoy a level playing field.

Pakistan, which is embroiled in a domestic political crisis, may not be so willing to challenge hardliners in its country, and go along with India in promoting peace and stability in the Eurasian space. We have seen how Indo-Pak presence in SAARC makes it difficult to ink key pacts.

The clash of interests in a post – 2014 Afghanistan makes prospects of cooperation difficult. There is also a possibility that China may collude with Pakistan to suffocate India’s voice in the decision making process.

Other than that, India will have to balance the geopolitical ambitions of China and Russia to evolve a mutually beneficial framework.


 

Further readings:

SCO becomes a reasonably hot topic post India’s accession to the member status. If you are comfortable with IR, try these articles  –

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Four corners of a good deal

Article Link

The U.S.-Japan-India trilateral has gained momentum in recent years, with regular meetings and a variety of collective exercises. This proves that India has begun to exert its leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • But, it is not possible for India to be a world leader or an Asian leader without first being a South Asian leader. For this to happen, the support of Australia is also necessary.
  • Few experts have been pitching for a greater cooperation between the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia. But, often this quadrilateral relationship is depicted only in defence terms. The four-way arrangement has made much less progress and has largely been limited to some meetings and naval exercises several years back.
  • But, a closer relationship between these four key democracies is necessary for India’s overall growth and can also boost India’s tenuous energy security in a big way.

India’s energy dependency:

India’s energy deficiency and ever increasing needs are well-known. It is also true that for Indian economic growth to return to double digits, energy supplies must increase by three to four times over the next few decades.

  • Deficits, however, are immense — including, for electricity alone, peak demand deficits of 25% in some southern States. This has made India largely depend on other countries to meet its demands.

Key facts:

  • 80% of India’s oil is imported.
  • Coal imports have also increased by as much as 56% in a single year.
  • India also imports 40% of its uranium.
  • Import of natural gas is also increasing.

Concerns:

India’s dependency on other countries is always fraught with risk.

  • Many, if not most, of its hydrocarbon imports come from unstable or faraway regions.
  • Two thirds of its oil comes from West Asia, and distant Venezuela is also a key source of oil. Additionally, India sees great potential in gas-rich Central Asia. However, because Pakistan denies India transit rights to Afghanistan, India lacks direct access to the region.
  • India is now planning to enhance its access to Central Asia by developing the Chabahar port in southern Iran. However, so long as Afghanistan remains unstable, access to Central Asia via Chabahar will be difficult.
  • TAPI pipeline project is a good move. But, Afghanistan’s security problems make this gas pipeline an unlikely prospect.
  • Meanwhile, the lifting of sanctions on Iran following its nuclear deal with the U.S. opens up energy possibilities for India, which has reduced its imports from Iran in recent years. However, New Delhi faces serious competition from other importers rushing to cash in.
  • India has also lost out many opportunities in this sector, while China has seized them.

How can Australia be a game-changer?

Australia can provide immense energy benefits to India. It already provides sizeable quantities of coal and uranium cooperation between the two countries has also been explored.

  • Australia is a top global producer of LNG. And in recent times, India has shown a strong desire to capitalise on Australia’s gas riches. With LNG prices having fallen by 75% since 2014, the timing could not be more ripe to explore deeper energy cooperation — particularly given the volatile location of Qatar, the top current source of India’s LNG imports.
  • Additionally, India could leverage a closer relationship with Australia to engage more deeply with the latter’s neighbour, Indonesia, which provides India more than 60% of its current coal imports. This would also help advance India’s “Act East” policy.
  • A closer relationship with Australia and Indonesia would further ease the burden on India’s naval forces of protecting energy assets in areas more far-flung than Southeast Asia.
  • Additionally, Indonesia and Australia — despite their proximity to the South China Sea and their susceptibility to Islamist militancy, including attacks by the Islamic State — are far more stable than West Asia, which would ease concerns about the security of Indian energy assets and imports originating in these two countries.

Way ahead:

The time is ripe for India to explore ways to increase cooperation with Australia. One way to achieve this is by reviving the quadrilateral relationship. This could also enhance energy engagement with the U.S. and Japan.

  • Besides, all four countries have an interest in energy infrastructure development. Japan, US and Australia have all signed on to the India-led International Solar Alliance. Japan and India are also offtakers for U.S. LNG projects.

Conclusion:

In recent years, a major roadblock to the quadrilateral relationship was Australia, which withdrew from the arrangement in 2013, citing concerns about China’s reaction. But, now with the new government the country has expressed renewed support for resurrecting it. For India, reviving the quadrilateral relationship may not make much sense from a national security perspective. However, viewed through the lens of energy security, it arguably makes very good sense.

Big Picture, GS-2, Internal security, International Relations, Uncategorized

Militarizing the South China Sea

There are reports that China has placed surface to air missile batteries in the Woody Island, a link in the chain of Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Woody Island has been claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. However, the island is under the control of China since 1974. Islands and rock formations in the South China Sea are subject to claims by number of surrounding countries. However, to strengthen its claims China has been extending its coastline by building on reefs and rock formations. The US, Australia and Vietnam have accused China of militarizing the region. However, China has hit back by saying that US is the main reason for the militarization of this region. It should be noted here that recently a US naval ship sailed close to the disputed area in the South China Sea. It is also significant to note that this region witnesses around 5 trillion dollar worth international trade passing through it annually.

Some experts argue that China’s spectacular economic rise accompanied by its increased military strength and spending is the real concern for the rest of the world, especially the US. China, too, is willing to push western countries out from the western Pacific Ocean. However, Philippines and Vietnam are not happy with the recent increased Chinese assertion. China, however, defends this action citing historical connections. But, this has certainly raised concerns among other countries.

Roughly, 12 nautical miles from the coast is considered as sovereign zone of any country. According to UNCLOS, 200 nautical miles is considered as EEZ. However, the problem here is that China, Vietnam and Philippines have a concept called as Territorial Sea, which means whatever their claims are no country can enter into this zone, be it military or civilian vessels. And this is the problem for international trade. International vessels going through this region have to take the permission of these countries.

 

Why is the United States so interested in what goes on in the South China Sea?

Officially, the United States holds that freedom of navigation is important. But, few experts argue that US is doing all these things just to suppress China. Fundamentally the United States will not allow a challenger to replace it, either regionally or globally.

 

Why does China want to control the South China Sea?

Control of the South China Sea would allow China to dominate a major trade route through which most of its imported oil flows. It would also allow China to disrupt, or threaten to disrupt, trade shipments to all countries in East and Southeast Asia — as well as deny access to foreign military forces, particularly the United States. The floor of the South China Sea may contain massive oil and natural gas reserves. Sovereignty over the region could give China a level of energy security and independence far beyond what it currently possesses.

 

The dispute between the United States and China is likely to escalate to some degree. U.S. Pacific Command planners are preparing to sail and fly again within 12 nautical miles of areas that China claims as sovereign territory. However, China has stated that it will defend what it considers its territorial limit. If the Chinese government blinks, it could suffer domestically due to the loss of face for the Communist Party. If the United States wavers, it will risk perpetuating the impression, among U.S. partners and allies, that it lacks resolve in light of its policy in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine. The stakes are high for both sides, as is the risk of a miscalculation. The United States is marshaling major allies in the region to take a role, in the hope that the combined weight of U.S., Japanese and Australian forces will give China pause.

Editorials, GS-2, International Relations, Uncategorized

Seizing the ‘One Belt, One Road’ opportunity

Article Link

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project can help offset the global trade challenges and provide better connectivity and greater economic opportunities. China’s fast economic growth in the past 30 years has dramatically transformed the global landscape. This transformation is expected to continue under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative set out by President Xi Jinping.

What is One Belt, One Road initiative?

The One Belt One Road initiative is the centrepiece of China’s foreign policy and domestic economic strategy. It aims to rejuvenate ancient trade routes–Silk Routes–which will open up markets within and beyond the region.

  • Through this initiative, China’s plan is to construct roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure across Asia and beyond to bind its economy more tightly to the rest of the world.

Challenges before this initiative:

There are several structural challenges that confront the Chinese OBOR proposal-

  • First, the perception, process and implementation to date do not inspire trust in OBOR as a participatory and collaborative venture. The unilateral ideation and declaration — and the simultaneous lack of transparency — further weaken any sincerity towards an Asian entity and economic unity. However, China says that it is committed to pursue wide-ranging consultations with the 60-plus nations on this issue. An ‘OBOR Think Tank’ is also being established to engage scholars from these countries.
  • It is widely accepted that through this initiative China is projecting its military and political presence along OBOR. China is also willing to underwrite security through a collaborative framework. Hence, few countries including India have wholeheartedly not welcomed this initiative.
  • Another challenge deals with the success of the ‘whole’ scheme, given that the Chinese vision document lays out five layers of connectivity: policy, physical, economic, financial and human. While no developing country will turn away infrastructure development opportunities financed by the Chinese, they may not necessarily welcome a rules regime built on a Chinese ethos.
  • This belt runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Hence, a formal nod to the project will serve as a de-facto legitimisation to Pakistan’s rights on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is closely related to OBOR.

Is OBOR a threat or an opportunity for India?

The answer undoubtedly ticks both boxes. Chinese political expansion and economic ambitions, packaged as OBOR, are two sides of the same coin. To be firm while responding to one facet, while making use of the opportunities that become available from the other, will largely depend on the institutional agency and strategic imagination India is able to bring to the table.

Way ahead for India:

India now needs to match ambition with commensurate augmentation of its capacities that allows it to be a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. This will require the government to not only overcome its chronic inability to take speedy decisions with respect to defence partnerships and procurement, but will also necessitate a sustained period of predictable economic growth; OBOR can assist in the latter.

  • Chinese railways, highways, ports and other capacities can serve as catalysts and platforms for sustained Indian double-digit growth. Simultaneously, India can focus on developing last-mile connectivity in its own backyard linking to the OBOR — the slip roads to the highways, the sidetracks to the Iron Silk Roads.
  • Currently, India has neither the resources nor the political and economic weight to put in place competitive and alternative connectivity networks on a global scale. Therefore, for the time being, it may be worthwhile to carefully evaluate those components of the OBOR which may, in fact, improve India’s own connectivity to major markets and resource supplies and become participants in them just as we have chosen to do with the AIIB and the NDB.

Conclusion:

It is fair to say that China, in deploying the OBOR initiative, has demonstrated a level of ambition and imagination which is mostly absent in India’s national discourse. India has so far been suspicious of the strategic implications of this initiative. If India sheds its inhibitions and participates actively in its implementation, it stands to gain substantially in terms of trade. Arguably, OBOR offers India another political opportunity. There seems to be a degree of Chinese eagerness to solicit Indian partnership. OBOR could potentially allow India a new track to its own attempt to integrate South Asia. However, India should act strategically on issues such as OBOR which will have a significant impact on India’s vital interests.