OBOR – push has come to shove now


China's grand geopolitical project - the OBOR - has been launched. It expects India to cooperate fully. India is in no mood to do so.

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OBOR – push has come to shove now

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  1. Come on India, be a sport! China is pressurizing India to participate in an international conference on its One Belt One Road (OBOR) programme in May. China realized that showcasing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would not be enough to sell the OBOR idea. But India is not playing along. OBOR is President Xi Jinping’s dream project.
  2. A mighty conference : China invited many, and heads of 23 countries participated in the OBOR conference held at Beijing, where it tried to persuade governments in Asia and Europe to join the programme. Beijing desperately wants India to participate because that would make it attractive to nearly all South Asian countries. China is sore because India's reluctance has made it difficult for China to extend the OBOR network to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar – and India is sore as its sovereignty has been breached.
  3. Gilgit – Baltistan is India’s : On its part, India has pointed out that China is building infrastructure projects in the disputed Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and thus hurting its interest in the name of China Pakistan Economic Corridor and OBOR. India cannot join a program that hurts Indian territorial interests, and sensing this, the Chinese ambassador also claimed the name CPEC would be reworked – a suggestion Pakistan reacted angrily to, and Beijing deleted finally!
  4. Europe unhappy with OBOR : Members of European Parliament (MEP) have expressed concern over real motives of China's mega 'One Belt, One Road' initiative and cautioned that this project could make Europe politically dependent on Beijing. A conference titled 'European Union and OBOR', hosted by the Brussels-based South Asia Democracy Forum (SADF), was held in the European Parliament (EP) on May 5. The objective of the conference was to discuss and understand the China-initiated ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project, Beijing’s economic, geo-political and strategic motivations behind launching this initiative, and best responses by EU nations to it.
  5. Africa too is unhappy : China’s OBOR initiative could worsen socio-economic difficulties for Africa. Africa is already undergoing bitter experience after Chinese investment in the continent. Chinese policy to harness raw material and export finished products to African nations have left the locals without a fair share of jobs, killed local manufacturing industry, pushed the countries towards debt and created social tensions.
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  7. India and Africa may come closer : Only two African leaders (Ethiopia & Kenya) are attending May 14-15 OBOR meet organised by China but officials across countries from the continent point out that discomfort with Beijing is on the rise. It is felt that the infra projects under OBOR would escalate socio-economic difficulties for African nations, some of which are among the fastest-growing economies in the world. The precarious situation has encouraged some African nations to move closer to India that share decades old bonds with the continent since the days of anti-colonial struggle. China has built stadiums, airports, hospitals, highways and dams across the continent, leaving many African countries saddled with debts, environmental conflicts and labour strikes.
  8. My overcapacity, Your debt! This is nothing but pouring China’s overcapacity overseas. And OBOR wants to further accentuate the situation – by pouring Chinese steel and concrete onto local ecology at recipient cost. On the other hand, India’s development model is gaining traction in Africa as an alternative to the Chinese model. The mega Indo-African summit in Delhi in 2015 and visits by the president, vice president and PM across Africa in 2016 have raised Delhi’s profile in the continent. Africa’s interest in what India stands for and offers have been growing.
  9. India Africa Forum Summit : PM Modi has given a new focus to India’s African interaction in his usual energetic style with a more visible engagement. Yet this outreach is benign in nature and resonant with India’s soft power approach to international relations. India’s main focus in Africa has been on trade and investment, energy security and developmental assistance; and now even maritime security, agriculture and food security have also gained priority. Indian investment in the continent amounts to $ 33 billion. Trade has also been steadily increasing and is currently at an estimated $ 70 billion.
  10. India refuses to participate : In the mega show during May 14-16, India bluntly refused to participate. External Affairs Ministry put its objections in no uncertain terms : "We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs; and skill and technology transfer to help long term running and maintenance of the assets created by local communities. Regarding the so-called 'China-Pakistan Economic Corridor', which is being projected as the flagship project of the OBOR, the international community is well aware of India's position... No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity."
  11. Deep Dive : For serious students and learners, here are more useful links to study – (1) China and World Politics, (2) India – China – Pakistan issues, (3) Infrastructure projects and financing, (4) The Modi Doctrine, (5) OBOR related

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Bodhi Saar: OBOR – push has come to shove now
OBOR – push has come to shove now
China's grand geopolitical project - the OBOR - has been launched. It expects India to cooperate fully. India is in no mood to do so.
Bodhi Saar
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