India wrinkle on China silk – Jaishankar speaks out on absence of consultations

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Zebra, Jul 21, 2015.

  1. Zebra

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    Mar 18, 2011
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    India wrinkle on China silk – Jaishankar speaks out on absence of consultations

    Published July 21, 2015 | By admin

    Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream international connectivity project to revive the “Silk Routes” was designed by Beijing in its “national interest” without consulting others, Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said today.

    The first detailed public comments by New Delhi on the initiative are signalling sharp reservations.Over 50 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe have either committed themselves to or indicated support for what is known as the One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative – a project compared by many analysts to America’s Marshall Plan for Europe’s reconstruction after the Second World War.

    But the Narendra Modi government had so far remained ambiguous on the project under which China is estimated to spend $1.6 trillion — the size of Canada’s economy, and the single biggest ever foreign investment initiative – on a cross-continent network of ports, railroads and highways.

    “Where we are concerned, this is a national Chinese initiative,” Jaishankar said in response to a question after an address he delivered in Singapore at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. “The Chinese devised it, created a blueprint. It wasn’t an international initiative they discussed with the whole world, with countries that are interested or affected by it.”

    India is among 65 countries kissed by the Obor, which consists of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a Maritime Silk Road, through a port proposed in Tamil Nadu.

    But while Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan have indicated support for the initiative that will see China pump in billions of dollars into their economies, New Delhi had till today appeared diffident.

    On Monday, Jaishankar suggested that the Indian government viewed the initiative not as an inclusive plan aimed at benefiting overall connectivity but as a part of China’s own strategic agenda.

    “A national initiative is devised with national interest, it is not incumbent on others to buy it,” Jaishankar said. “Where we stand is that if this is something on which they want a larger buy in, then they (the Chinese) need to have larger discussions, and those haven’t happened.”

    Jaishankar’s comments on the Obor, unveiled first by Xi in September 2013 and detailed by him when he visited New Delhi last year, underscore an intensifying strategic joust between India and China, even as the foreign secretary tried to underplay any competition. “I don’t think there is an inevitability of contestation,” Jaishankar said.

    But his comments are also significant because they come amid a growing debate within India’s strategic establishment on whether India, like many other nations not completely comfortable with China, should shun the Obor or examine potential gains from it.

    “I think what the foreign secretary said is a fair comment, and I too see the Obor as an expression of China’s current neighbourhood project, funded by its deep pockets,” said Kishan Rana, a former diplomat and senior fellow at the Institute for Chinese Studies here told The Telegraph. “The point is that it could also provide money and expertise for our ports and infrastructure, and we need to think about whether that’s something we can ignore.”

    Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran had in May told this newspaper that India ought not to “close the door” on the Obor.

    The Obor includes a controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting China’s Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province to Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

    India has formally protested this economic corridor but Saran and several others have argued that India stands a better chance at shaping the Obor by talking to China about it.

    Some analysts have cited India’s decision to co-found the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – also Xi’s idea – with China as an example of “smart” strategic thinking that will allow New Delhi to try and influence a major institution from within. India signed up for the AIIB as its second-largest shareholder after China.

    But other analysts have cautioned against ignoring the strategic dimension of the Obor, including the ports in Sri Lanka that are already under construction.

    Unlike the Obor, Jaishankar said today, the AIIB was an “international” initiative.

    “AIIB will provide a new source of financing, and that kind of long-term development funding is needed,” Jaishankar said. “I would separate the One Belt One Road issue from the AIIB.”

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