Author: Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
Posted on: The Times Of India, January 7th, 2016
China is keen on a high-level Indian participation in an international conclave that it plans to host this May to garner support for its mega One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) connectivity initiative spanning across Europe, Asia and Africa. India, however, remains wary of the ambitious project, especially because it includes China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) running through PoK.
Delhi has not endorsed OBOR not only because it perceives the move as Beijing’s attempt to expand its influence in the region but also because it includes CPEC. India has lodged regular protests against creating CPEC that challenges sovereignty issue.
Beijing has recently indicated to Delhi that it will host a conference on the OBOR in China and urged a «high-level representative” from India. Delhi, however, remained non-committal, persons familiar with the matter indicated.
Delhi, according to the sources, is still reluctant to endorse OBOR, particularly because the initiative includes the CPEC, which will link Kashgar in Xinjiang region and Gwadar port in Balochistan.
A senior official of Pakistan army recently said India should drop its opposition to CPEC and rather join the initiative. This prompted China to underline that it had an «open attitude” to India joining the CPEC.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has since 2013 been articulating the idea of a ‘21st century Maritime Silk Road’ to revive economic connectivity between Pacific and Indian Oceans and to link China’s coastline with Southeast Asia, the Gulf and the eastern coast of Africa. He has also been proposing a ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’, reviving the ancient link between China and the Mediterranean through Central Asia.
The two projects are now together called OBOR or Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI) and the Chinese government has been pulling out all the stops over the past few years to elicit support from other countries and make it a success. It is billed as Xi’s dream project.
China’s plan to expand its presence further in the Indian Ocean region and the Central Asia, however, has caused discomfort in Delhi, which has already been wary of China’s «string of pearls” assets encircling India, according to experts on the subject.
Delhi views the OBOR initiative or BRI as the one designed by Beijing in pursuit of its own strategic objectives, but not as an inclusive one because the opinions of other «interested or affected” countries had not been taken into account.