India is trying to use its strategic projects like ‘Mausam’ in the Indian Ocean as a bargaining chip to acquire “special position” in China’s mega Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road initiatives, an influential state-run Chinese think-tank has claimed.
“Since China envisioned in 2013 the initiative of the Silk Road economic belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) known as ‘One Belt and One Road’, India has been following it closely.
“With a strong sense of its sphere of influence, New Delhi rejects MSR as well as the Bangladesh-China-India- Myanmar (BSCIM) economic corridor and the China-Pakistan economic corridor,” Liu Zongyi, an assistant research fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said in an article published in the official Global Times daily today.
India primarily attempted to counter MSR with ‘Mausam’, a strategic project aimed at re-establishing India’s trade and shipping links with various Indian Ocean states and working on the idea of Cotton Route, the article said.
Cotton Route aims to firm up diplomatic and economic relations with the Indian OceanÂ Rim countries.
Indian officials say New Delhi regards Indian Ocean as the key trade route as 90 per cent of its trade by volume and 90 per cent of its oil imports take place through sea.
The Silk Road projects were expected come during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with Chinese leaders during his visit here next month.
His visit to three Indian Ocean countries – Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka – in March “shows India is determined to adopt an asymmetrical strategy to secure a dominant position in the Indian Ocean through bolstering military and security cooperation with these island nations”, it said.
“But India is fully aware that a lack of funds will prevent it from successfully engaging in deepening economic cooperation with its neighbours and its plans will in no way substitute for Beijing’s MSR. Therefore, it’s more likely to use them as bargaining chips,” the article said.
The MSR identified Kolkata as the lone link in India while it banks on the USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project as the key base. The fate of the project now hangs in balance as the new Sri Lankan government suspended it pending a review of its environmental clearances.
China has now mooted a trilateral cooperation between India and Sri Lanka to link both Indian and Chinese projects for smooth implementation.
“There are signs that India expects to acquire a special position in the ‘One Belt and One Road’ project. Some Indian scholars point out that New Delhi will not be content with playing second fiddle. Indeed, India’s active participation will be helpful to itself, other South Asian and Indian Ocean countries as well as China. Nevertheless, if it intends to gain an advantage through blackmailing, it will never receive moral support from the region,” it added.