Skip to main content

The great Game Folio: Silk routes

There is a huge difference, of course, between agreeing to discuss and collaborating with China on large transborder projects.

SILK ROUTES

As China reconfigures India’s neighbourhood through its active promotion of new silk routes — over the Great Himalayas and across the Indian Ocean — New Delhi must make up its mind on how best to respond. That Delhi is shedding some of its past defensiveness is evident from the UPA government’s recent decision to discuss the Chinese proposal for the so-called BCIM Corridor that will integrate eastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and southwestern China. Delhi also appears to be ready to consider positively Beijing’s invitation last week to join China in the construction of a “Maritime Silk Route” between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

There is a huge difference, of course, between agreeing to discuss and collaborating with China on large transborder projects. China has been pushing the BCIM corridor at least since the late 1990s. India’s default position was to duck and fume. The reluctance in Delhi’s foreign and security establishments against any overland connectivity projects with Beijing has been deep and is tied to the difficult political relationship and unresolved boundary dispute. Delhi has also been wary of China’s growing maritime presence in the Indian Ocean, which it sees as India’s backyard.

While Delhi fretted, China has over the last decade and a half dramatically expanded its connectivity over land and sea with India’s neighbours in the subcontinent. In the north, China built the spectacular Tibet Railway to Lhasa and is planning to extend it to Nepal. To the east, Beijing plans to build road and rail connections to Bangladesh through Myanmar. China has built a twin pipeline system that will move oil and natural gas from Myanmar’s Arakan coast to the Yunnan province. It also has plans to build a road and rail corridor parallel to the pipelines.

In the west, China is modernising the trans-Karakoram highway, linking China’s Xinjiang province and Pakistan’s northern territories. It is now ready to invest billions of dollars to develop what is being called the “Kashgar Corridor” that will connect Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea. In the south, China has built new ports in Hambantota, Sri Lanka and Gwadar, Pakistan. As its economic interests grow rapidly in the Indian Ocean, Beijing is looking to develop maritime infrastructure all across the littoral as part of a new maritime silk route.

INSULAR INDIA

Together, the Chinese projects compel us to rethink our long-held assumptions about India’s physical space. The Great Himalayas are no longer a protective barrier for the subcontinent, as Chinese economic power now radiates out of inner Asia and connects markets and peoples that were once considered remote.

In the Indian Ocean, we have focused for centuries on Western primacy. As China becomes the world’s foremost trading nation with an increasingly powerful navy, Beijing is all set to redefine India’s maritime environment. In boldly re-engineering the subcontinent’s physical environment, Beijing is behaving much like the British Raj, which sought to open new trade routes between India and inner Asia and develop connectivity with Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan.

The difference, of course, is in the scale of the resources that China can mobilise today. If Beijing is reviving the Raj tradition, Delhi has largely forgotten it. If Partition physically shrunk India and separated it from many adjoining regions, an inward-looking economic policy devalued external transport corridors.

India has finally woken up in recent years to the implications of Chinese infrastructure projects in the subcontinent and beyond. Although Delhi now mutters the mantra of connectivity, its ability to turn words into deeds has been less than impressive. CHINA PLUS

In responding to China’s silk route development around the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, Delhi must discard any residual notion that it can build a “great wall” against Chinese economic influence in its neighbourhood. Nor should India believe economic cooperation with China will in itself help resolve Delhi’s other political disputes with Beijing. The next government in Delhi must outline a bold vision for connectivity in India’s frontier regions and across borders and identify a set of ambitious projects. If China can be useful in implementing some of them, Delhi must go ahead without any political hesitation.

For India, China is not the only option. Japan has been eager to build corridors between India and Southeast Asia. Multilateral institutions like the Asian Development Bank have long been eager to develop transborder projects between India and its neighbours. It is Delhi that has fallen short until now in geo-economic imagination and pragmatic project implementation.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cloud seeding

Demonstrating the function of the flare rack that carries silver iodide for cloud-seeding through an aircraft. 
Water is essential for life on the earth. Precipitation from the skies is the only source for it. India and the rest of Asia are dependent on the monsoons for rains. While the South West Monsoon is the main source for India as a whole, Tamil Nadu and coastal areas of South Andhra Pradesh get the benefit of the North East Monsoon, which is just a less dependable beat on the reversal of the South West Monsoon winds.

SC asks Centre to strike a balance on Rohingya issue (.hindu)

Supreme Court orally indicates that the government should not deport Rohingya “now” as the Centre prevails over it to not record any such views in its formal order, citing “international ramifications”.

The Supreme Court on Friday came close to ordering the government not to deport the Rohingya.

It finally settled on merely observing that a balance should be struck between humanitarian concern for the community and the country's national security and economic interests.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, one filed by persons within the Rohingya community, against a proposed move to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, began by orally indicating that the government should not deport Rohingya “now”, but the government prevailed on the court to not pass any formal order, citing “international ramifications”. With this, the status quo continues even though the court gave the community liberty to approach it in …

India’s criminal wastage: over 10 million works under MGNREGA incomplete or abandoned (hindu)

In the last three and half years, the rate of work completion under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has drastically declined, leading to wastage of public money and leaving villages more prone to drought. This could also be a reason for people moving out of the programme.

At a time when more than one-third of India’s districts are reeling under a drought-like situation due to deficit rainfall, here comes another bad news. The works started under the MGNREGA—close to 80 per cent related to water conservation, irrigation and land development—are increasingly not being completed or in practice, abandoned.

Going by the data (as on October 12) in the Ministry of Rural Development’s website, which tracks progress of MGNREGA through a comprehensive MIS, 10.4 million works have not been completed since April 2014. In the last three and half years, 39.7 million works were started under the programme. Going by the stipulation under the programme, close to 7…