Officials and scholars from Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar will meet in Kolkata next week after a gap of more than two-and-half years to kick start the lagging consultation process concerning the envisaged BCIM Economic Corridor.
The meeting will pick up where it left off in December 2014 at the Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, the last venue of the Joint Study Group (JSG).
Officials from the External Affairs Ministry as well as scholars and academics from India are scheduled to take part in the 2017 April 25 – 26 meeting where the overall objective would be the finalizing of the report by the Joint Study Group (JSP).
The BCIM-EC will hope to link Kunming, the capital of China’s southwestern border state of Yunnan, with Kolkata in West Bengal through Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh, giving life to the idea of creating a corridor of regional integrity which was first mooted in 1999 but has had little practical progress.
China and India have officially acknowledged that the process of finalising the BCIM is not an easy task, citing many reasons,among which includes the restive nature of the region that the planned corridor will pass through.
Unofficially, diplomats and bureaucrats from the two countries have passed the blame to each other for the snail pace of the project.
The BCIM predates President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by several years. However the initiative by the Chinese government to make BCIM as part of the BRI has raised some hackles in India. India feels that BCIM should be pursued as an autonomous initiative rather than as an extension of BRI.
The Indian Defence News website quoted an unnamed Indian diplomat as saying that all four BCIM-EC partners should continue to have co-ownership of this project, ‘which should not be subsumed under another construct.’
China meanwhile does not see eye to eye with the Indian argument but instead view India as a virtual spoiler.
“India’s attitude towards OBOR (One Belt, One Road) is clear – support some parts of OBOR, oppose and hedge the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the 21st Maritime Silk Road and delay and change BCIM,” Liu Zongyi from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies stated at the “BRI Initiative South Asia” seminar organised by the China West Normal University on Tuesday.
Guo Suiyuan, Associate Professor at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted in the Hindustan Times as saying that the door for Track II dialogue between China and India has never been closed despite the delay in the JSG talks.
“Several academic seminars were held and information and views were exchanged,” Guo had noted.
“At this particular point of time, we need to re-emphasise that BCIM-EC is a cooperation platform for economic development and prosperity of the region and does not involve some of the sensitive issues that exist between China and India,” Guo had further stated.