China’s Ambassador to India as well as economic experts, have raised their voices once again about the lack of India’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative. China’s influential newspaper Global Times quoted them and urged India to review its stance on the initiative before the first summit on B&R, scheduled to be held in May 15-16. If the initiative succeeds, other regional cooperation, such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, will expand further, claims the Chinese media outlet.
As Beijing prepares to host leaders and representatives from dozens of countries next week for a summit on the Belt and Road initiative, India, the South Asian giant, is noticeably missing from the list of guests. That’s not because India was not invited, but because it has been reluctant to join the initiative.
Global Timessaid that by skipping the summit and maintaining its wary stance on the initiative – which has drawn interest from more than 60 countries and is expected to reshape economic and trade relations in the Eurasian region – India could miss a slew of benefits for its domestic economic development as well as an opportunity to take part in the reshaping process, Chinese officials and experts said, adding that the door is still open for India.
The Belt and Road initiative could help India address several pressing economic issues, including imbalanced trade with China and the need to find new markets for its growing manufacturing sector throughout South Asia and beyond, according to Wang Jun, an expert at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
The newspaper mentioned that India’s trade deficit with China, which has raised serious concerns among officials in New Delhi, “could definitely be solved through cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative,” Wang told the Global Times on Monday.
The trade deficit increased to $52.69 billion in the 2015-16 financial year from $48.48 billion in the previous financial year. Chinese experts have attributed the deficit to the low level of trade complementarity between the two countries, while some Indian officials have blamed market restrictions.
Either way, the issue can be resolved, according to Wang. “Through the Belt and Road, China can help India produce goods that are needed in the Chinese market and both sides can work on further expanding market openness,” he said, adding that some manufacturing outsourcing from China that has been focused on other countries such as Nepal could end up in India.
More broadly, the Belt and Road initiative could open a larger market for Indian businesses, according to Wang. “With the ultimate goal being to improve infrastructure and the environment for trade, this initiative will enlarge the pie for everyone rather than fighting the existing one … the Indian side should see that clearly,” he said.
The vast number of infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road could also offer India a great opportunity as the country is trying to improve infrastructure through a slew of measures of its own, Luo Zhaohui, Chinese ambassador to India, said in a speech on Saturday.
“Similar to some of India’s initiatives, the Belt and Road is centered on connectivity, focusing economic cooperation particularly in building infrastructure in face of the development needs in countries along the route and in the region,” Luo said, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website. “This offers an important opportunity for India’s development.”
Once the regional connectivity under the initiative is further strengthened, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor will also advance, which will create benefits for India. For example, some cargo from Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province is currently shipped to India’s port city Kolkata through the Strait of Malacca, a Chinese exporter who has been doing business with India for decades told the Global Times in an earlier interview. “Opening a new land route will save us time and lower the cost,” he said.
Global Times commented that despite all this, India still appears to be reluctant to join the initiative, mostly because of political reasons. Some people in India think that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key element of the Belt and Road that passes through the Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan, is a threat for its sovereignty issues, while others are worried that China wants to dominate trade in the region.
Luo, in his speech, firmly rejected such claims. “China has no intention of intervening in the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan … the Belt and Road initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aims to promote economic cooperation and connectivity, not to involve or affect sovereignty disputes,” he said.
The ambassador also said the Belt and Road initiative was a “public product” for the world that is aimed at pushing forward globalization and economic integration, as opposed to a self-serving mechanism. “The Chinese side’s wish to cooperate with the Indian side on the Belt and Road is sincere, because it would be beneficial to both India and China,” he added.