Unless India (and Japan and US) can provide a worthwhile alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it will be difficult to counter China’s push into these regions, especially in South Asia, says an expert.
Sharing his views on the absence of Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC) at the 2nd BRI Forum which concluded last week, Prof Rajesh Rajagopalan, School of International Studies, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, says “Indian diplomacy might have helped; Beijing has started paying greater attention to objections from others. It is possible that China is slowly learning from some of its early mistakes with the BRI when they disregarded objections from others.”
“China has been facing greater resistance from other countries to their plans and India’s refusal to take part may have emboldened some capitals too,” he adds.
New Delhi’s criticism about the debt component of the BRI projects as well as sovereignty issues has also begun to resonate with other capitals, especially of smaller countries. Ultimately smaller countries in the region and outside are hungry for infrastructural development and investment and so would look to any source that can provide these, including China, Rajagopalan points out.
At the 2nd BRI forum, this project was missing from the list of BRI projects which was presented in the presence of 37 heads of state and governments took part, where deals worth $ 64 billion was inked. Russian President Vladimir Putin, heads of many Asian, African and Latin American countries besides heads of the UN and the IMF were at the meet.
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The participating countries affirmed respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity towards Beijing’s trillion-dollar BRI, one of the major demands of India. Beijing announced 35 corridors in the new list of projects under BRI.
Just like in 2017, India had abstained itself after expressing its objections on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), last week it remained absent from the meet. India has been opposing this initiative as it passes through PoK.
The Economic Corridor which is expected to provide connectivity with countries in the region as well as around includes the CPEC, the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway, in the South Asian region.
The 1700 –Km China-Myanmar Economic Corridor is expected to give another route to access the Indian Ocean too. Also, the 2800-km BCIMEC proposes to link Kunming in China’s Yunnan province with Mandalay in Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan connectivity network will be starting from Chengdu, linking to Tibet by the Sichuan-Tibet railway.