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India should climb on China's Belt and Road

By Rabi Sankar BosuComment(s)Print, November 3, 2017

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India and China [File photo]

Ever since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), held on October 18 -24 in Beijing, enshrined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Party Constitution, it has once again become the hot talking point in the Indian media.

A number of mainstream Indian media outlets, flanked by some ultra-nationalist politicians in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have claimed that the inclusion of the BRI in the CPC Constitution will mean intense pressure on a reluctant India to join the initiative. In addition to enticing Indian leaders with attractive construction projects, China will be promoting President Xi’s ambitious political model as a financial fund for India's neighbors. The suggestion is thus that this construction project should put India on high alert, as the BRI is actually a veiled military agenda that will inevitably encroach on Indian territory after expanding its power base in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It is understandable that the Indian media serves the interests of India. But it’s worth considering the way a section of the Indian media criticized the mention of BRI in the CPC Constitution. Taking an aggressive stance against China, the sole aim of these reports is to stir up the flames of Indian nationalism by calling for a boycott of Chinese goods and anti-dumping investigations on imports from China.

The hawkish rhetoric used by Indian newspapers is so unreasonable and arrogant that it will have an adverse impact on the common public sentiment regarding Sino-Indian ties. It can be hoped that Indian media will be truly objective and neutral in their reporting on an initiative which has been figured in a UN resolution like the BRI. They should not see the BRI's mutually beneficial objectives through a clouded lens, as it is not deceptive.

Proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI is a historic endeavor under which China has invested US$560 billion overseas. Comprised of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Xi called it "the project of the century." Over the past four years, it has been serving as China's blueprint for global development and coordination. So far, the initiative has won support from more than 100 countries and international organizations, over 40 of which have signed cooperation agreements with China.

However, India was the notable absentee at the high-profile Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing on May 14-15 this year in which 29 world leaders took part. India abstained from the summit to highlight its concerns over the landmark $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a chief component of the BRI and traverses Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India has expressed unhappiness over the route, despite the fact that the CPEC is an economic project which has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue.

On October 24, Xi called on foreign leaders to participate in this plan for a "shared destiny for all mankind" under the BRI. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the decision to enshrine the BRI in the Party Constitution will not alter China's relations with India. Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese ambassador to India, also called on India to join the BRI project and assured the Indian government that the CPEC would not impinge on anyone’s sovereign rights.

Without a doubt, this initiative has the potential to benefit a number of developing countries by lifting them out of poverty. The advantages of the BRI have already been felt by people in many developing countries. As such, India must explore the economic opportunities that the BRI affords.

The time has come for India's current foreign policy makers to discover new avenues for our relations with China and Pakistan, our two principal neighbors, for creating peace in the region. If the Modi administration really wants peace in the region, it should abandon its biased views of China. More importantly, India should refrain from embracing American President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy, as nothing will come for free from today’s U.S.

Furthermore, as two large neighbors, there is a need to set a long-term vision for India-China relations. Surely, the two countries have great cooperative potential in their economic and social development. If they work together, they will drive economic growth, promote trade and bring peace and happiness to the peoples of the world.

Hopefully, the two countries will actively explore the feasibility of aligning China’s BRI and India's "Act East Policy." China is sincere in its intention to cooperate with India on the BRI, as it benefits both countries. India should now follow China, which is "taking center stage in the world."

Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, West Bengal, India

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