Abe, Modi to tackle B&R rival

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/13 23:48:39 Last Updated: 2017/9/14 0:30:51

‘Freedom Corridor’ remains a concept: expert

An Indian security personnel truck drives past a billboard displaying the images of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of a visit by Abe to Ahmedabad on Wednesday. The two are expected to discuss India's first bullet train. Photo: AFP

Discussions on further cooperation to provide a counterbalance to China's regional and global influence will top the agenda of talks between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese analysts said.

Abe arrived in Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat and will stay until Thursday, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.

An initiative launched by Japan and India called "Freedom Corridor," designed to serve as a counterbalance to China's Belt and Road initiative, is expected to figure prominently in talks between Abe and Modi, said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

However, the Japanese-Indian initiative is just beginning. It is unlikely to reach the same level as the B&R, said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations.

In May, when China was holding the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, Japan and India agreed to launch the Freedom Corridor.

India and Japan were "embarking on multiple infrastructure projects across Africa, Iran, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in what could be viewed as pushback against China's massive, unilateral infrastructure initiatives connecting it with Europe and Africa," and India conspicuously stayed away from the B&R initiative over strategic and security concerns, India's Economic Times said in May.

India said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through disputed Kashmir, is the reason why it opposes the B&R initiative. But India's real reason is it doesn't want to see China's influence in South Asia and refuses to open its domestic market to China, said Ye Hailin, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' National Institute of International Strategy.

"It is understandable for a weaker economy to be protectionist, and convincing India to join the B&R initiative is not China's mission. The initiative will move forward with or without India, and we welcome India but we can't decide for them," Ye said.

Unlike the B&R initiative, the Freedom Corridor remains at the conceptualization stage, Hu said. "The financial capacity of India and Japan is limited, and their economic conditions prevent them from making substantial overseas investments, and they have no financial institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank."

"A key mission for Modi this time is to convince Abe to spend more money on the Freedom Corridor. Since they haven't begun, it is hard to compare their project with the B&R initiative, but it's quite clear that their project will be much smaller than the B&R initiative, assuming Japan and India can make it happen," Hu said.



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