India-Japan growth corridor may mean division, not connectivity for Asia, Africa

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/1 22:33:39

Some who seek to sow discord have described the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) - a connectivity project jointly forged by India and Japan - as an oppositional vision intended to counterbalance China's "Belt and Road" (B&R) initiative.

But the two countries working on the alternative growth corridor should keep cool and position the AAGC as a complement to the wide-ranging B&R initiative.

This would make particular sense for India, which needs an overhaul of its infrastructure such as railways, highways and airports. Given this situation, India is believed to benefit much more from B&R infrastructure projects than the AAGC venture.

Announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May during the African Development Bank meeting in Gandhinagar, India the AAGC, essentially a maritime corridor, has been seen by some as a counterbalance to the B&R initiative. The new venture, jointly led by India and Japan - two countries that have so far opted not to join the B&R initiative - sets out a vision for the better integration of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia with Africa and Oceania.

That vision indicates an overlap between the AAGC and the B&R, and in turn invites controversy over the actual intentions behind the growth corridor as well as urges a rethink on the latecomer.

It goes without saying that India and Japan could feel free to embark on a new connectivity initiative and no one is begging them to join the B&R initiative. As long as the AAGC aims to embrace inclusive growth and promote joint prosperity, the corridor should be encouraged. But if India and Japan design the corridor to deliberately counterbalance China's B&R, they should think twice before rushing to it because the route of the AAGC has an extensive geographic overlap with the route of the B&R initiative.

That's particularly the case, considering that China has already made huge commitments to developing Africa while the India-Japan partnership is only just taking shape.

China is Africa's top economic partner, with bilateral merchandise trade totaling $188 billion in 2015, more than triple the India-Africa trade figure, as per a new report by McKinsey & Company. India is Africa's second-biggest trade partner. Additionally, China has taken the lead in investing in Africa, providing aid and infrastructure financing to the continent, according to the report.

If the AAGC aims to squeeze out China's B&R initiative instead of serving as a complement, it actually divides what's supposed to be a united force to forge ahead with inclusive growth in dozens of countries and regions along the route of the B&R initiative. India, for its part, should be particularly level-headed and guard against any over-assertive plans that may go awry.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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