Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

China’s influence on India-US ties

By Sumit Kumar

At a time when there is increasing uneasiness between India and the US, due to the trade policy of US President Donald Trump’s administration, the US’ Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and other issues, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman on Sept. 6 held the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Delhi to strengthen their partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, China has described India as a natural partner in its Belt and Road Initiative.

Since the initiative was launched in 2013, it has become the most ambitious project of the Chinese government to reshape the regional and global order. While it is generally viewed as a plan to build infrastructure projects, other elements of the initiative are to strengthen regional political cooperation, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people exchanges.

The Belt and Road Initiative covers 76 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, accounting for half of the world’s population and one-quarter of global GDP.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) government has focused on mobilizing the country’s political, diplomatic, intellectual, economic and financial resources to make China an unquestionable regional and global power.

The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to cost more than US$11 trillion, about US$350 billion worth of projects have so far been financed by Chinese development banks and Beijing has also signed 270 commitments with countries around the globe, according to the Chinese government.

Surely, South Asia has become a special focus of the initiative. This can be easily gauged by the fact that China has signed a US$3.1 billion bridge and railway project in Bangladesh, a new city next to Colombo’s port in Sri Lanka is expected to receive a total investment of US$13 billion over the next 25 years, and a freight route now links China’s east coast and London. The US$60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is of course a major aspect of the initiative.

While the signatories of the Belt and Road Initiative have pledged “to oppose all forms of protectionism,” including in the framework of the initiative to promote “a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system,” it is also true that some experts and scholars see it as debt-trap diplomacy, citing cases of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Hambantota Port and other projects.

Fearing China’s possible imperialist motives, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad’s newly elected government recently canceled a series of large investment projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.

India has refused to join the initiative, arguing that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor violates its sovereignty because it passes through the part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir that India caims, but New Delhi and the US are also mindful of the possible strategic and security threats emerging from the initiative.

It is in this context that New Delhi and Washington have taken measures to effectively challenge Xi’s pet project.

While India has focused on enhancing its engagement with Southeast Asian countries according to the Indian Act East Policy, it also sees the point in Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy to maintain and promote peace and security in the region.

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