China asks India to consider CPEC and One Belt One Road as economics not geopolitics

BE2C2 Report — China state media Global Times this month published two back-to-back opeds on India’s stance regarding CPEC and its umbrella initiative called the One Belt One Road comprising of land and sea trade routes — reminiscent of the ancient Silk Route.

China’s road and rail (red line) and maritime silk route (blue line), called the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative

The articles highlighted India’s perspective of the initiative generating geopolitical competition and therefore using the Kashmir issue as an unfounded excuse to oppose the ambitious project.

It asks New Delhi to abandon its “cliche mentality,” while observing that “India will surely see a different world if it looks at it as trade and economic regional integrity and connectivity initiative.”

In the first article “Geopolitical Bias Hinders India in Benefiting from Belt & Road Initiative”, Lin Minwang, a Chinese research fellow at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, advises its southern neighbor to learn from the development history of China-ASEAN economic cooperation. “…open regional cooperation is key to stimulating the vitality of South Asian regional integrity,” Minwang commented.

At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that a Belt and Road summit will be held in May in Beijing. The summit, the first of its kind, has since attracted wide attention from the international community.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi revealed at a press conference recently that more than 20 heads of state and government will attend the summit, together with more than 50 leaders from international organizations, over 100 ministerial officials and more than 1,200 guests from around the world. India has not decided yet, the article reveals.

The gathering is supported by most of China’s peripheral countries, notably Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. “But for India, it may be an embarrassing occasion,” the author said.

Last month, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar hosted the first India-China strategic dialogue in Beijing, the first since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office. “When asked whether India will attend the international conference, Jaishankar said his government was still studying the issue.”

The author states, “It seems that New Delhi has been contemplating the One Belt and One Road for quite some time. On the one hand, India hopes to deepen economic cooperation with China to promote its “Made in India” campaign, while on the other, it is concerned about China’s expanding influence over South Asia. Considering the Belt and Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective inevitably complicates the issue.”

The author further states that, “At the first Raisina Dialogue in 2016, Jaishankar talked about India’s view of regional connectivity. According to him, different strategic interests and initiatives on connectivity are emerging across the Asia-Pacific region, which probably referred to Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, China’s Belt and Road initiative, Japan’s plan in aid for Asian infrastructure projects and the U.S.’ New Silk Road initiative.”

More importantly, he claimed that “in the absence of an agreed security architecture and the continuation of significant territorial disputes, the Asian landscape has been more than a little uncertain … More dangers than convenience are perceived from connectivity,” which would lead to unnecessary competition in Asia,” the author quotes Jaishankar’s observations.

The author says the mainstream opinion throughout India is that the connectivity brought about by the Belt and Road initiative is geopolitically significant. Therefore, “India cannot allow the initiative to expand further into South Asia. This could also explain why the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor has seen no progress since its proposal by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2013, and also why New Delhi has been keen on Japan’s investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar.”

India, according to Minwang, sees the Belt and Road initiative as a geopolitical competition. “The official reason the Indian government rejected the offer to join the initiative is that it is designed to pass Kashmir, a disputed area between India and Pakistan. However, it is just an unfounded excuse as Beijing has been maintaining a consistent position on the Kashmir issue, which has never changed.”

New Delhi may also feel embarrassed as Moscow has actively responded to the Belt and Road initiative and will build an economic corridor with China and Mongolia, the author states. Since the beginning of this year, there have been reports on Russia and Iran seeking to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, “which will likely put India in a more awkward position,” Minwang says.

Meanwhile, other smaller states in South Asia have shown interest toward the Belt and Road initiative. According to the author, India is definitely reluctant to see itself being left out of all these economic cooperation projects between China and other South Asian nations. “Whether to continue to boycott or join the Belt and Road remains a conundrum for New Delhi.”

At present, India is the only one who can help itself, the author states, adding that “It should give up its biased view on the Belt and Road initiative, he added.

According to the article, Beijing has expressed, on various occasions, its anticipation to see New Delhi join the grand project and to make concerted effort with India in building economic corridors involving China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

“Perhaps what India should learn from the development history of China-ASEAN economic cooperation is that open regional cooperation is key to stimulating the vitality of South Asian regional integrity. It is high time to abandon the cliché mentality of associating everything with geopolitics. India will surely see a different world if it does.”

 

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