The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which China hopes would become the flagship for a new wave of globalisation, can help establish a triangular partnership among Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad, says a leading Chinese researcher.
Hu Shisheng, Director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, stressed that their common opposition to the growing anti-globalisation sentiment imparts fresh strategic cement to China-India ties on the global stage.
“Amid increasing anti-globalisation sentiment, protectionism and extreme nationalism have been prevailing over free trade. As two major powers in the east, China and India are justified and obligated to actively fill the void in global governance caused by the withdrawal of some Western countries, including the U.S., and provide more public products and resources for the region’s development,” he observed.
Open world economy
Hu’s advocacy for globalisation dovetails with remarks by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who told reporters on Monday, at the end of the two-day Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, that the BRI would promote an open world economy, rebalance globalisation and work toward trade liberalisation. He also underscored that the One Belt One Road connectivity initiative, which would cover Asia, Europe and Africa, would back green and low-carbon development, according to a report by The Hindu.
In an article in the China-Indian Dialogue magazine, which appeared ahead of the Belt and Road Forum, Hu points out that infrastructure projects separately taken up by China and India can now be inter-connected under the BRI umbrella. He stressed that just as the China-developed ports of Hambantota and Colombo in Sri Lanka, Kyaukpyu in Myanmar, as well as Gwadar in Pakistan are bringing about “tremendous changes”, India’s port construction projects including Chabahar in Iran, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Myanmar are also catalysing modernisation. “Construction of the Pan-Asia Railway Network linking China and Southeast Asia is gaining steam, and India is increasing promotion of its ‘Look East’ policy”, the researcher observed.
Hu underscored that despite the Indian government’s persisting scepticism of the BRI and opposition to the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, “breakthroughs are still likely to come considering that the Modi government’s sub-regional cooperation plan aligns with the Initiative”.
Covering a broad geographic swathe from the Arabian Sea to Southeast Asia, Hu highlighted that China-Pakistan corridor, as well as the India-led Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal initiative and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) “are progressing smoothly,” breaking new ground for regional development.
In a specific reference to the corridor project, the Chinese researcher said it bridged the infrastructure gap that Pakistan, left out of India-initiated connectivity initiatives in the region, had experienced in the past. He highlighted that on account of its geographic location, the project, once completed, will go a long way in bridging infrastructure in South Asia, Central and West Asia.
“The China Pakistan Economic Corridor is expected to shore up weak links of regional integration between China, India and their neighbouring regions, especially Central, West and South Asia.”
Consequently, the “Belt and Road will lay a solid foundation for China and India to merge their respective sub-regional cooperation strategies in the future.”
Hu pointed out that the BRI is not a security-oriented undertaking, driven by a zero-sum mentality of the past. “For China, India and Pakistan, the initiative will foster friendship and cooperation in a wide variety of developmental realms. Such a programme stands in stark contrast with the security centred practices that other countries, especially major powers, usually take towards India and Pakistan.”