Context

China has recently proposed constructing a first-of-its-kind oceanic corridor linking the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, as it released a new maritime plan under ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative.

What is OBOR?

  • The most ambitious project of Xi Jinping announced in year 2013 is referred to as One Belt One Road.
  • The action plan was approved by the Chinese state council in 2015. There are 2 components of this initiative: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (exhibit
  • The Silk Road Economic Belt is envisioned as three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and the Indian Ocean (via South Asia).
  • The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is planned to create connections among regional waterways.
  • It focuses on improving connectivity among Asian countries Africa, China and Europe.
  • The main crux is to grow land routes as well as maritime routes.
  • The policy is significant to China as it aims to boost its deistic growth.
  • China’s uses OBOR as a strategy for economic diplomacy.

Significance of OBOR:

  • Creating an infrastructure and providing connectivity to foster economic cooperation as partners in development are the explicit objectives. Its implicit objectives include both economic and political.
  • OBOR could help earn higher returns on surplus savings or capital exports and it could provide a new source of external demand.
  • It could use the excess capacities in railways, steel, metals and cement, to provide work for their construction companies, while using their experience of infrastructure projects.
  • OBOR is a means of extending political spheres of influence, mostly in Africa at present, to South East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. It is about buying regional leadership in the quest for hegemony.
  • It is a stepping stone for China’s aspirations of global leadership by creating a rival to the transatlantic economic area with the US at its apex.
  • OBOR should make the world recognize the global aspirations of China.

How is it a threat to India?

  • For India, to be a part of OBOR or to not be, has been a dilemma for some year but in May the government decided not to.
  • The decision appears to be strong keeping sovereignty as the main agenda upfront.
  • Being part of OBOR would have raised several questions on connectivity, financial responsibility, transparency and the environment.
  • CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) already runs through the Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan, signing OBOR at such violations would be disrespectful towards our own sovereignty.
  • It poses a major security threat to India as Beijing is trying to encircle New Delhi by undertaking construction projects in the neighbouring countries under the guise of connectivity purposes.
  • Joining OBOR can give legitimacy to the alleged state-sponsored terrorismfrom Pakistan, that can now spread to the rest of J&K.
  • China is trying to connect railway lines to Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh primarily with a view to further create far greater difficulty for India from the security point of view under the guise of better connectivity purposes.
  • For its political differences and strategic concerns, it is imperative for India to not budge from its position as it would count as a submissive acceptance of the CPEC.
  • What some call a move on economic diplomacy, the belt and road project would give India massive headaches as the immediate fallout will be increased ease of cooperative action between Pakistan and Chinese forces. Also, worryingly, the Chinese Army will get deeper access and deployment in Kashmir.

Is there any benefit if India being open to join OBOR?

  • India and China need to ensure that their differences on political questions do not prevent both sides from advancing economic cooperation, something both countries have struggled to lately.
  • Government may need to consider the future of its Pakistan policy, because the possibility of India benefiting from regional connectivity by land would entail a measure of normalized ties with Islamabad.
  • It can be a great boost for employment and labor movementprospects for India, which is facing chronic unemployment crisis in Eastern part (ref: 15%+ in Manipur, Nagaland and other NE states), which can be truly unlocked by this initiative.
  • India can join the maritime trade route with China and help solve its crude oil needs.
  • It is an opportunity to join the maritime trade routewith China that can help solve India’s crude oil needs. A dream of Asian Union can be seen.
  • The landlocked north can have two vent-out ports in forms of Indian side and even Pakistan side creating economic prosperity in the process.

How should India counter OBOR?

  • India should ramp internal connectivity. Raja Mohan says that China didn’t start OBOR as an external initiative but it was “built upon the top of the internal “Go West” strategy that focused, over the last two decades, on unifying China’s domestic market and connecting its developed east coast with the interior provinces.”
  • India should modernize connectivity across its land and maritime frontiers with neighbouring countries.
  • India should work with countries like they did with Japan and multilateral institutions to develop regional connectivity in the Indian Subcontinent and beyond.
  • India’s vision document on ASIS- AFRICA GROWTH CORRIDOR can be a good front.
  • India Japan have launched their own infrastructure development projects to balance OBOR- GREAT WALL.
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