The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, which aims to link Asia with Europe for trade and other exchanges, represents an opportunity for India, former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said here today. “This does represent an opportunity for India. Even if some portion of what is proposed in the BRI is implemented, it will markedly change the economic and strategic landscape within which we operate,” he said.
Menon was speaking at a conference on ‘The Belt and Road Initiative: India’s perspectives on China’s ambitious plan for infrastructural connectivity in Asia, Africa and Europe’, organised by Mumbai-based Observer Research Foundation. “The connectivity that BRI promises will benefit all the exporting countries in Asia which need to be better connected with their markets and suppliers. There are maritime and continental connectivity gaps in Eurasia that need to be filled,” the former national security adviser said.
“There are evident advantages (of BRI) for the Chinese economy,” he said, adding “BRI will set standards across countries and markets.” “If there is an attempt to exclude economic rivals or pursue political or security goals, the economic benefits will be limited,” Menon said.
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“There will be certain benefits for the Chinese economy and also advantages for the others who participate in the BRI,” he said. The former Foreign Secretary noted that not all projects under BRI were economically viable, suggesting that they would have some geostrategic motivations, for instance, the China- Pakistan economic corridor.
“It is very hard to see an economic justification for it. It is the strategic portion such as a port which has been implemented first,” Menon said. “For India, there is the added complication that it goes through Indian territory under Pakistani occupation. Making a long-term investment on that basis seems to solidify and legitimise that occupation.
“Much of the planned BRI infrastructure is in regions and countries where security is weak and politics is unstable. Therefore, the risks to large-scale investments are considerable,” he said. Menon, who recently came out with his book on India’s nuclear weapons doctrine, said, “China, like India, today is one of the most outspoken advocates of globalisation and multilateralism.
“The BRI involves 65 countries and 4.4 billion people,” he added.