How can ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative soothe New Delhi’s worries?

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-16 23:08:01

After China initiated the "One Belt, One Road" project, a large number of countries have shown a willingness to join. However, India, which has enormous influence on whether the initiative, especially the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, can be implemented smoothly, has not officially responded. Some scholars therefore believe that the Indian government's official attitude of "researching" and "considering" the proposals is actually "rejecting" them.

In addition, New Delhi has not only reportedly objected to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a crucial part of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, but also created its own "Spice Route" and "Mausam" projects. Some Indian media take them as counters to Beijing's mega programs.

However, these are not the real intentions of India. It probably makes more sense to say that New Delhi is increasing its leverage in its negotiations with China. India bears great significance for China's maritime Silk Road development. As the most important nation in the Indian Ocean, India is going through a high speed economic growth, and can be a significant partner on the maritime Silk Road in the fields such as infrastructures, trade, finance and people-to-people exchanges.

New Delhi's attitude will also affect other coastal countries around the Indian Ocean, such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

India is a major power, and deserves more attention. Some Indian scholars think that the China-led maritime Silk Road lacks transparency. India has no idea what China's intentions are. What's the difference between the maritime Silk Road and the current maritime trade and transportation? Is it a replacement or a supplement?

If China helps in infrastructure projects in the countries along the route, this will mean a lot of Chinese investment moving in. In that case, will the Chinese military step into the Indian Ocean?

India wants answers to these questions. Some Indian scholars think that China should attach more importance to India and make more explanations, so as to gain India's understanding and cooperation.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, which the Indian government insists is its territory.

Hence, due to India's principle and stance, it is not surprising for the country to speak out against the project.

Soon after China raised the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, India started considering upgrading the Mausam projects, which used to be a cultural project, into the same level as the 21st century maritime Silk Road. Some Indian media hyped that such projects aim to counter China.

Nonetheless, India is incapable of implementing such plans. Take the nation's own infrastructure, which is still in need of foreign investment. So how can it invest a large sum of money in the constructions of others' port, road, or airport?

Yet the projects can be a bargaining tool by India when negotiating with China about the connection between the 21st century maritime Silk Road and the Mausam projects. India may also share influence with China in this joint venture.

China released the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in March. Although there is still no formal reply from India, the initiative is being taken seriously in the country's academic circles, with increasing positive voices.

If specific projects for the "One Road, One Belt" initiative can be detailed as the next step, Indians will be bound to evaluate the pros and cons, and reach a decision over joining it.

The author is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute, and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.

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