China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. This colossal project, in 2013, aims to reshape global trade and infrastructure development.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
- India’s Stance on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
- Issues Concerning the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
- The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a comprehensive development strategy launched in 2013 with the goal of enhancing global connectivity and cooperation.
- Initially named ‘One Belt, One Road,’ it was later rebranded as the BRI to emphasize inclusivity and openness rather than Chinese dominance.
Components of BRI:
- The BRI consists of two primary components:
- Silk Road Economic Belt: This focuses on improving overland transportation routes, infrastructure, and trade links across Eurasia.
- Maritime Silk Road: Emphasizes maritime connections, including ports, shipping routes, and maritime infrastructure projects, extending from the South China Sea through Indo-China, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and reaching Africa and Europe.
- The primary objective of the BRI is to enhance international connectivity by improving infrastructure, trade, and economic cooperation.
- It encompasses a wide range of projects, including the development of railways, ports, highways, and energy infrastructure.
- The land-based Silk Road Economic Belt includes six key development corridors:
- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
- New Eurasian Land Bridge Economic Corridor
- China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor
- China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor
- China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor
- China-Myanmar Economic Corridor
- Participation in the BRI has led to increased trade and investments with China for the involved countries.
- Trade with BRI partners experienced an annual growth rate of 6.4%, reaching USD 19.1 trillion between 2013 and 2022.
India’s Stance on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Opposition Based on Sovereignty and Transparency:
- India opposes the BRI project primarily due to concerns related to sovereignty and transparency.
- India chose to boycott BRI summits organized by China in 2017 and 2019 and refrained from endorsing BRI joint statements issued by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Objection to CPEC and PoK:
- India’s primary objection to the BRI is the inclusion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), a territory claimed by India.
- India asserts that PoK is an integral part of its territory.
Call for International Norms and Financial Sustainability:
- India emphasizes the need for BRI projects to adhere to international norms, uphold the rule of law, and ensure financial sustainability.
- India is concerned about the potential creation of debt traps, as well as environmental and social risks for the countries hosting BRI projects.
Promotion of Alternative Initiatives:
- Instead of participating in the BRI, India has been actively promoting alternative connectivity initiatives.
- One such initiative is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a G7 effort aimed at funding infrastructure projects in developing nations.
Issues Concerning the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Debt Sustainability and Transparency:
- One of the primary issues associated with the BRI is the debt sustainability and transparency of its projects, especially in countries with weak governance, high corruption, and low credit ratings.
- Accusations of “debt-trap diplomacy” have arisen, with critics suggesting that countries like Sri Lanka and Zambia, unable to repay BRI-related loans, have faced pressure to surrender strategic assets or make political concessions.
Decentralized and Bilateral Nature:
- The BRI consists of primarily bilateral projects rather than a centralized, multilateral initiative. This decentralized approach can lead to coordination and governance challenges.
- Unlike initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRI lacks a centralized governing structure, making collective issue resolution challenging.
Geopolitical Rivalries and Disputes:
- Geopolitical rivalries and disputes, such as the India-China border dispute, have had repercussions on the implementation of BRI projects in certain regions.
- Political tensions can undermine the progress of the initiative, affecting project timelines and outcomes.
Environmental and Social Impacts:
- BRI infrastructure development projects have faced criticism regarding their potential environmental and social impacts.
- The challenge is to ensure that BRI projects prioritize environmental sustainability and consider the well-being of local communities.
Geopolitical Concerns and Influence:
- The BRI has raised geopolitical concerns, especially regarding China’s growing influence and control over critical infrastructure in partner countries.
- These concerns have led some countries to reevaluate their participation in the initiative and seek to balance their interests.
-Source: Indian Express