On the great Asian highway

On the great Asian highway

India-china

News:

  1. Syed MunirKhasru, Chairman of the international think tank, The Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance, is of the opinion that better communication between India and China would benefit the whole region.

Important Facts:

  1. India and China must forge an understanding to cooperate on regional connectivity projects.
  2. Inability to communicate, cooperate and coordinate on matters of regional trade and connectivity have affected the relationship of all countries in the Asian region.This is the major roadblock to prosperity in the region.
  3. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj refused to endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ meeting.
  4. India’s stand on BRI is seen to be more of a strategic bargaining position, and not an opposition to regionalism.
  5. Consequences of poor connectivity in the region:
  • Intra-regional trade is among the lowest in South Asia.
  • South Asia, with a population of 1.8 billion, has only 5% intra regional trade.
  • Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) are high.
  • Building infrastructure can reduce the Non Tariff Barriers by 80%.
  1. Benefits of improving connectivity:
  • Increased trade,
  • Better people-to-people interaction
  • Better understanding among people
  • Increased tolerance among countries
  • Closer diplomatic relations in the region.
  1. Status of regional organisations/initiatives:
  • Most of the states are a part of regional initiatives led by India and China. These initiatives have not progressed much due to slow progress.
  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) is in a deadlock due to India-Pakistan ties hitting a low in the recent past.
  • The Bay of Bengal’s potential to enhance trade through its ports and waterways has not been utilized. It serves as a funnel to the Malacca Straits. It has now become one of the most important strategic hotspots for global trade.
  • India-led Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. BIMSTEC Energy Centre and a task force on Trans Power Exchange and Development Projects, to develop a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection has been created. But overall, it is losing out on important opportunities due to its reluctance to take initiatives.
  • A portion of the Maritime Silk Route crosses the Bay of Bengal and involves Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
  •  Both China and India are pursuing regional initiatives on their own which could lead to benefit for all involved states
  1. BBIN way
  • There was a trial run of Bangladesh-Nepal bus service under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement. This shows that the gridlock of the region can be overcome by the ambition of smaller states to establish connectivity.
  • Bhutan did not ratify the agreement due to opposition from its parliament. So it asked the other countries to move ahead. It said that it would join in as soon as it Parliament ratifies it.This has shown that it is possible to implement plans even when all the members are not able to participate in it.
  1. If the BRI, BIMSTEC and BBIN were made complementary to each other and had established with cooperation and coordination, the projects under the schemes could have been implemented more efficiently. It would have enhanced trade and connectivity in the region and benefit all countries in the region-small and large.
  2. The ineffective and slow moving regional projects are ultimately affecting the citizens. They are deprived of well-thought-out and carefully strategized regional connectivity projects.
  3. The smaller states of the region are losing out economically as the bigger states are not able to cooperate with each other.
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