TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
In News: China proposes construction of a trans-Himalayan trilateral economic corridor – India-Nepal-China economic corridor, an ambitious plan that seeks to connect the two countries and Nepal.
- China and Nepal have reached consensus on the co-construction of the Belt and Road [Initiative], for which connectivity is one of the top priorities.
- China and Nepal are willing to gradually promote cooperation in the areas of railways, highways, aviation, electricity and telecommunications. This will create conditions and provide convenience for the trilateral economic corridor of China, Nepal and India, which is likely to be built in the future.
- Traditional Motivation: To insulate Tibet from the South – to ensure China’s rule to remain uncontested especially from India
- China sees the trilateral corridor with Nepal and India as a way to expand exports of cheap goods. It is a way to exert their economic hegemony and OBOR is a part of it.
What exactly is OBOR?
Focuses on: Improving connectivity and cooperation as well as enhance land as well as maritime routes
- Backed by extensive China led funding, the infrastructure runs through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other.
- The project has two components — the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) that would be established along the Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea, and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
- The policy is significant for China since it aims to boost domestic growth in the country. Experts have noted that OBOR is also a part of China’s strategy for economic diplomacy.
India’s reservations need to be looked at from the sovereignty perspective
Lack of Trust and Transparency: For India to accept such a project, there would need to be an overall environment of trust and transparency, which, in the case of China, is lacking. India would prefer to focus on strengthening bilateral connectivity projects with Nepal.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor: India’s Achilles’ heel is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, popularly known as CPEC.
- The CPEC is seen as a part of the Belt and Road initiative although it started much earlier. In fact, when the Chinese entered into an agreement with Pakistan in 1963 to build the Karakoram Highway in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) region, India had vociferously objected to it on the very question of sovereignty.
- The region through which the highway was to pass belonged to India and has been under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. The Chinese side, thus, has full knowledge of India’s concerns about the region.
- The CPEC today passes through the same region of PoK called Gilgit Baltistan (GB). India has time and again raised its concerns over Chinese activity in the region, the latest being in 2011 when information came out about the presence of thousands of Chinese troops in the region.
China’s Trade Policy: China has already been using countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to dump their products in India, and there is a huge bilateral trade deficit between China and India. India is not keen on this, especially because of a lack of structures in terms of customs and other clearances on border areas. While China wants to use third country routes to supply its products to India, it does not allow Indian services or certain other products access to its own market.
As pointed out by The Economist magazine, China today talks not in terms of the China Model or the Beijing Consensus as it used to. The terminology used these days is “China solution” and “guiding globalisation”. Its initiatives, including OBOR, need to be viewed from the perspective of these newly coined phrases.
But, countries need to understand that connectivity initiatives must be based on “universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality, and must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India should also not simply sit out the project. It must actively engage with China to have its particular grievances addressed, articulate its concerns to other partner countries in a more productive manner, and take a position as an Asian leader, not an outlier in the quest for more connectivity. If the Chinese are looking at India’s support, they should look at India’s support in the areas near South China Sea or for that matter, Vietnam. But the Chinese do not want India in their neighbourhood.
India must not interfere in the decisions made by Nepal. As we want our sovereignty to be safeguarded, we should let the Nepal government also consider the pros and cons and take a decision.
Connecting the Dots:
- India today seems to be sceptical about one belt one road (OBOR) initiative of china. Explain the reasons for the same and what should be the future course of action by India towards OBOR initiative.
- The 21st century is witnessing a changing world order. Discuss how India and China can make the best of these changes and define the 21st Century as the “Asian Century”.
- “Only by respecting the sovereignty of countries involved, can regional connectivity corridors fulfill their promise and avoid differences and discord,” Critically examine
Locate on the Map: Karakoram Range
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