Opinion

INDIA: the OBOR (CPEC) dissident

May 20, 2017 11:36 AM

 The OBOR dissident

India needs a long-term strategy INDIA appeared like an outlier when it chose to sit out Sunday’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Summit in Beijing. Two reasons have been cited: sovereignty issues over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s inability to properly explain the connectivity initiative. The first will remain a constant factor for all time to come. Neither will India give up its claim over PoK nor does it have the military strength to wrest it from Islamabad. As for the second, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get enough opportunities this year when he comes across President Xi Jinping at the summits of the SCO, G20 and BRICS.

In the short term, India’s flag-bearer status as an opponent of the OBOR may help it win concessions from the West. But it will be worthwhile to have a long-term strategy to avoid isolation. For, even the increasingly inward-looking US took a U-turn and sent a representative to Beijing. 

As things stand, both India and China need each other. The CPEC will be financially unviable unless India lends its weight to it. China is also slipping into a position of weakness as its economy slows down and it will need the huge Indian market more than ever, especially when Narendra Modi’s developmental energies are directed towards road building, railways, ports and housing. Being astute businessmen, the Chinese have sensed this. That is why their envoy in India offered to rename the CPEC with a politically more palatable name. India’s unusual political trepidation may well be directed towards getting a better bargain from China than if it had shown school-boyish enthusiasm towards the OBOR.

Credit Suisse and HSBC, both by no means Chinese surrogates, have suggested that India could be the biggest gainer from the OBOR which consists of six economic corridors. Three of them, and not just the CPEC, can boost India’s external trade where it has been a historical laggard. At the same time, the OBOR is a geopolitical project. India may well be speaking up for many other countries, including Russia, when it says the concept and purpose behind the OBOR remain opaque. In the short term, India’s flag-bearer status as an opponent of the OBOR may help it win concessions from the West. But it will be worthwhile to have a long-term strategy to avoid isolation. For, even the increasingly inward-looking US took a U-turn and sent a representative to Beijing. 

The Tribune, Chandigarh

This Editorial was published on May 16, 2017

 

 

 

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