- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key features of BRI.
- For Mains: India’s concerns, ways to address them and global implications of the project.
Context: Malaysia will resume work on the multi-billion dollar East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) after months of negotiations with the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and the Chinese government brought the cost down by a third. China is building a deep-sea port on Malaysia’s east coast and the railway is a key link in its Belt and Road Initiative.
What is BRI?
BRI consisting of the land-based belt, ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’, and ‘Maritime Silk Road’, aims to connect the East Asian economic region with the European economic circle and runs across the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa.
- BRI is China’s ambitious project announced in 2013. It covers about 65% of the world population, 60% of the world GDP and over 70 countries in six economic corridors.
- China is spending almost $1 trillion to revive and renew the overland and maritime trade links between China, Europe, West Asia, and East Africa through construction of modern ports linked to high-speed road and rail corridors.
India’s concerns with BRI:
- India argues that the BRI and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project violates its sovereignty because it passes through the part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that belongs to India.
- Debt trap: BRI projects are pushing recipient countries into indebtedness, do not transfer skills or technology and are environmentally unsustainable.
- China is planning to extend the CPEC to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are eagerly pursuing potential BRI projects.
- Through OBOR, China is countering the strategies of India in North East region and is promoting its greater presence in North East India, part of which China claims as its own territory. This may have a security impact on India.
- Tense bilateral relations with China, deep mistrusts and India’s growing concerns over Chinese hegemonic intentions in South Asia and Indo-Pacific region make it practically unlikely that India will ever consider joining this project.
- Military deployment: The fact that the Chinese have begun to deploy 30,000 security personnel to protect the projects along the CPEC route makes it an active player in the politics of the Indian sub-continent. Clearly, this is a case of double standards.
Mains Questions: Why is India not part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? Does India’s absence matter to China? Critically examine.