India is not part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit

What is in news?

India has stayed away from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit which began in Beijing citing sovereignty, procedural and leadership issues.

As many as 120 countries, including 29 at the top leadership level, attended the inaugural function of “project of centuary”.

What is Belt and road initiative?

One Belt, One Road ,is a development strategy, proposed by Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia,.

OBOR consists of two main components:

1.land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB)

2.oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).

China’s motives behind this project?

To increase trade. China now needs more sources of raw materials and markets for its goods. So in a way it is looking for ‘colonies’

To develop its northwestern Xinjiang region.

To invest the surplus dollars that it has accumulated over the years as ‘idle money is equal to no money’

To grow into a world power and challenge the current geo political realities

For India the positive impact could be-
1) better integration with central asian countries, provided Pakistan allows the usage of its highways
2) AIIB could help India bridge its infrastructure gap

Why India is not part of OBOR?

China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC passes through a region that was illegally occupied by Pakistan immediately after the independence and partition of erstwhile British India in 1947, hence called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK.

India and Pakistan have had a strenuous relationship since then and have fought multiple wars over the same. Pakistan claims that Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the PoK region should belong to Pakistan as majority of the population is Muslim, just like Pakistan(a constitutionally theocratic state) is.

India on the other hand, a secular state, rejects the claim on the account of having the second largest Muslim population in the world(far greater than that of Pakistan) and having acquired the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir from its then ruler, vide a legal Instrument of Accession.

The region is still disputed and according to Shimla Agreement of 1971, India and Pakistan both agreed for a ceasefire and accepting the boundary of PoK as effective Line of Control while both the countries figure out the way to resolve the competing claims.

China is well aware of the same and officially chooses to let the two sides come to an agreement in a peaceful manner. But in practical terms, it has been following a closer strategic association with Pakistan – an “all-weather friend” as they say in China – to balance Indian power and diplomatic aspirations. Also, CPEC is vital to Chinese interests – an outlet for Chinese capital and labour and a promising alternative to Malacca Straits for importing oil from the Gulf which could be a game changer in terms of Chinese strategic dominance in the South Asian region.

Chinese action of building a transport corridor for Pakistan through the disputed territory is obviously seen as Chinese acceptance and recognition of the region as Pakistani, and not Indian, which is understood as transgression and disrespect of Indian sovereignty.

India, thus, has chosen not to attend the OBOR meet as a signal to register its opposition and protest to the initiative and an indirect way to reject the legitimacy of Chinese investment in the region.

About CPEC:Image result for china pakistan economic corridor map

China–Pakistan Economic Corridor is a collection of infrastructure projects currently under construction throughout Pakistan.

CPEC is intended to rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of: modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.

On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.

View points on issue:

1.Unless and until India develops its own regional connectivity plans and economic capacities at home, there can be no serious engagement with Chinese-sponsored projects. Any premature engagement is likely to entrap India and stunt its rise.

2.An alternative view is that India’s rise itself needs engagement and connections with the wider Asian and Eurasian economies, especially in the post-2008 crisis world which has reduced the viability of the previous liberalisation model of drawing in western capital and basing India’s growth on a handful of service sectors linked to the West. In these changed circumstances, the B&RI is seen to provide an alternative source of finance capital and manufacturing opportunities to buttress India’s economy.

Conclusion:

The first view is based on an image of intense competition and rivalry and leaves little room for collaboration. The second competing view is based on an image of interdependence where the idea of growth and development cannot occur in isolation from the world’s second-largest economy. Both world views have some merit. The problem really lies in India’s inability to imagine security more holistically and reconcile geopolitical interests with wider developmental goals.

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