Connectivity is the first concept for having a full understanding of the Belt and Road initiative. The ancient Silk Roads set up land and sea trade passages connecting different nationalities and countries through slow tenacious voyages. The roads not only transported materials but also delivered culture and religious ideas, through which the West and the East moved closer and the world became smaller.
Historian Peter Frankopan at Oxford University wrote in his book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, “There was good reason why the cultures, cities and peoples who lived along the Silk Roads developed and advanced: as they traded and exchanged ideas they learnt and borrowed from each other, stimulating further advances in philosophy, the sciences, language and religion.”
The Belt and Road is aimed at carrying forward the contribution of the ancient Silk Roads but is quite different as it attaches more importance to connecting interests, that is, to benefiting all countries involved.
We can understand the importance of common interests from the anti-terror perspective. The Belt and Road initiative envisioned by China has set off a storm of debate in the international community. Some scholars hold that its expansion on land will muscle into the regions blighted by frequent extremist and terrorist activities in Central Asia and the Middle East. Consequently, the initiative will urgently help to enlarge cooperation in the war on terror.
Effective, positive counter-terror cooperation needs the connectivity of interests. As the Belt and Road project keeps advancing and attracting an increasing number of countries and enterprises, common interests will help build up mutual trust, which constitutes the foundation for the fight against terrorism.
In the past, as the countries, regions and especially people along the Belt and Road were not so closely bound up, their common interests could hardly converge, which gave rise to terrorist and extremist activities.
But if they get connected, it will be a different scenario. One of the five connections rolled out by the initiative is establishing connectivity through infrastructure. With improved infrastructure access, people will see common interests, thus denting their feeling of being abandoned by globalization. When development is made possible, there will be a stronger demand to safeguard security in a concerted effort.
For instance, the under-construction China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connects infrastructure projects, forming a foundation for cooperation and common development. In this way the countries involved will think of ways to deal with terrorists because “my problem is your problem as well.”
This region is confronted with rather a severe challenge in tackling terrorism, but we will establish security mechanisms to keep the paths clear once we share roads, highways and rails. China and Pakistan have already been making efforts in this regard.
The same is true of anti-terror cooperation between China and India. The two nations started negotiations on combating surging terrorist threats years ago, but have barely made any breakthroughs. One of the most important reasons lies in a lack of mutual trust.
If New Delhi can participate in the development of the Belt and Road project, give full play to its role as a big regional power and expand its influence, it will enjoy increasing mutual trust with Beijing, accompanying which the demand for a targeted joint military drill and anti-terror endeavor will develop. Thus there is hope to establish a more effective security mechanism to fight terrorism.
The key to the Belt and Road lies in the connectivity of interests. Discovering and developing more common interests among different countries and regions through the Belt and Road will boost their cooperation in addressing many a conundrum.
The author is a senior editor with People’s Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina