[op-ed snap] Way to get back on board

Context:

  1. In February 2014, when the Chinese government first brought up with India its plans for the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative, four months after President Xi Jinping had unveiled the idea in Kazakhstan, it seemed an unworkable, ambitious pipe dream
  2. China would need all the friends and partners it could get to make its plans for a 60-nation network encompassing 4.4 billion people
  3. In the Chinese scheme, India could be a major partner, and maps of the time show the B&R travel east to west right through India

Swerving off the road:

  1. A few months later Russia was enlisted through the $400-billion “Power of Siberia” pipeline
  2. Xi’s friendship at a time when the West had decided to isolate and cripple Moscow over Crimea’s annexation brought President Vladimir Putin firmly into the fold
  3. With India, China’s plan was a grander one: the newly elected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, would visit Xi’an, the original starting point of the old Silk Route, in May 2015, and both leaders would announce their cooperation in the B&R project (then called OBOR or One Belt, One Road), along with plans for the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that was set up in October 2014
  4. The script soured with either Mr. Modi’s announcement of a joint vision with U.S. President Obama for Asia-Pacific (read South China Sea), or Mr. Xi’s announcement of the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)\
  5. Therefore, May 2015 plan never materialised, although Mr. Modi did visit Xi’an

Hasn’t given up on India’s participation:

  1. China says it still hasn’t given up on Indian participation, and the National People’s Congress spokesperson this week repeated the hope that India will attend Mr. Xi’s mega B&R conference on May 14-15 this year
  2. Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are among the invitees expected
  3. However, the government has made it clear it is prepared to sit out the event over the principle of sovereignty
  4. When asked, a senior official said, “It is impossible for us to go and sit even as observers in the conference at this point — with the Belt and Road map on display showing parts of India in Pakistan”
  5. While the outcome is unfortunate, India’s stand over the line going through PoK is understandable

A reset in ties required:

  1. There is every indication that after ‘annus horribilis’ of 2016 for India-China ties, overshadowed by China’s opposition to India’s entry into in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its vetoing of a proposal at the United Nations to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist, New Delhi is looking for a reset
  2. During Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s recent visit to Beijing, he was looking forward to a stable, forward-looking relationship to deal with global uncertainties triggered by the Donald Trump administration in the U.S.

The U.S. angle:

  1. Much has been written about the impact of the new U.S. President’s actions on India
  2. The most obvious ones are cutbacks on immigrant visas, restrictions on outsourcing, and ‘SelectUSA’ which will make a dent in the ‘Make in India’ programme, both for manufactured goods and defence purchases
  3. Those actions are held responsible for creating an atmosphere of xenophobia in the U.S. where Indians could be targeted as much as people from countries on the travel ban, and the government has already had to exert considerable diplomatic leverage to exact words of assurances from the U.S. government on behalf of NRIs and PIOs
  4. If the U.S. decides not to build on its pivot to Asia, in addition to pulling out of free trade negotiations like Trans-Pacific Partnership, or doesn’t bolster its naval strength in the Indo-Pacific, those spaces will be occupied by China
  5. In the same vein, if the U.S. continues to cut troops in Afghanistan, lowers its interest in the reconciliation process, or pulls away from the larger discussions on Afghanistan’s future, then Russia has proved willing to move into those roles
  6. If this is to be the reality of Asia, then India will have to rethink its own rebalance of the past few years towards the U.S.

Neighbourhood on board:

  1. A rethink may also be required on India’s own neighbourhood policy
  2. In September last year, the government exerted considerable heft with each of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to cancel a summit in Pakistan after the Uri attacks
  3. The move was a part of India’s plan to “isolate” Pakistan until it takes action on terror
  4. The truth is that the plan worked for the SAARC summit, but not beyond that, in part because of Pakistan’s involvement with China and the B&R initiative, which has already been signed on to by Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (Nepal is expected to join soon)
  5. Even Afghanistan and Bangladesh, which suffer the most from terrorism emanating from Pakistan, will inevitably be drawn into the B&R group of countries more and more for connectivity and trade, more so in the absence of SAARC
  6. Significantly, it is the Afghanistan leadership that has come out most strongly on the need for India to find its way into the B&R
  7. Both President Ashraf Ghani and former President Hamid Karzai, on visits to India in the past few months, have stressed the importance of connecting India to Central Asia via Afghanistan, joining a “strategic arc” of countries from Iran to Russia and China
  8. These countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, are connecting to each other via B&R through Iran’s North-South corridor, CPEC and other routes already in place, while India’s plans for Chabahar port are still to get off the ground
  9. “Economically, Afghanistan has become a part of Central Asia,” Mr. Ghani has said
  10. Clearly, Afghanistan’s desire to reduce its dependence on Pakistan trade will eventually cut it off from all of South Asia

Contours of a compromise:

  1. If China so wishes, it could still make amends by using the Afghan desire to remain connected by putting the CPEC on an alternate route: to Afghanistan and not PoK, connecting it to the Silk Route envisaged
  2. This would not only build a bigger arc for the B&R route, it would sidestep India’s concerns over sovereignty, and leave the door open for it to join the project on its eastern frontiers via BCIM or to even just be an observer
  3. The issue of specific projects in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan would remain, but they could be dealt with in the manner the Chinese funding of the Karakoram highway or USAID and Asian Development Bank contributions to the Diamer-Bhasha dam were

Back2Basics:

  1. The founder of the old Silk Route, Zhang Qian, was not a Chinese emperor or ruler, but a diplomat-warrior
  2. He set out to look for strategic allies for Emperor Wu on a journey that began in 138 BC from the Han capital of Chang’an (now Xi’an)
  3. When he returned he told the emperor he had also learned during his stay in Bactria (Afghanistan and Central Asia) that a more important route for China lay within Shendu (India), through which China could trade over the mountains of Sichuan province

Note4Students:

Two thousand years later, it may need both diplomacy and a push from Afghanistan and Central Asia to once again align the lines between India and China, if New Delhi and Beijing wish to ensure that the success they shared via the old Silk Route is given another chance. An important op-ed for Mains.

China planning five-fold increase in marine force

  1. China is set to rapidly expand its marine corps and the Navy in anticipation of the development of its Maritime Silk Road (MSR)
  2. MSR covers the Pakistani port of Gwadar, and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa
  3. There will be a five-fold increase in its marine force — from 20,000 to 100,000 personnel.
  4. These numbers are still well short of the 182,000 strong marine corps of the United States, which has an aviation component of 1,199 planes
  5. Why expand? Some of the Chinese marines would be stationed at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and the Pakistani port of Gwadar, the starting point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
  6. Its original missions include a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas
  7. Future missions: Protection of China’s national security in the Korean peninsula, protecting the country’s maritime lifelines

Note4students:

Locate the locations mentioned in the article – Horn of Africa, Gwadar etc. The expansion of Chinese military forces is not a surprise, given its attempt to increase its influence around the world.

[op-ed snap] Missing the Asian tailwind?

Context:

  1. There has been a tectonic shift in the global geopolitical economy, to which powers such as the U.S., China and Russia have responded
  2. However, India is yet to formulate a worldview even as Asia, after a gap of 260 years, is again set to become the centre of the world

Recognising global trends:

  1. The “Look East Policy” enunciated in 1992 does not have much to show for it other than the sale of coastal patrol craft to Vietnam
  2. In the west, India’s investment of $500 million in the Chabahar port, mooted some years ago, is minuscule compared to China’s investment of $46 billion in the CPEC ending in Gwadar
  3. In South Asia, only Bhutan can still be considered to be in our “sphere of influence”

India now finds itself increasingly isolated in continental Asia:

  1. Russia and the Central Asian countries are linking their infrastructure to China’s OBOR, launched in 2013, meeting their long quest for a warm-water port
  2. Chinese investment is also attractive to Europe, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar

Current state of India:

  1. There is no national perspective on the uncertainties, challenges and opportunities from global forces and technological innovation reshaping global politics, economy and society
  2. Consequently, the stress remains on the military balance in dealing with other countries
  3. Remaining Pakistan-centric and ignoring trade cannot constitute the foreign policy of an aspiring global power

Global scenario:

  1. The post-1950 world order designed by the U.S. rested on a “tripod” of rules with coercive power:
  2. Global trade with dispute settlement, global security system resting on alliances, and deliberations in the UN based on a division between donors and recipients
  3. The re-emergence of China has limited the ability of the U.S. in setting the global agenda
  4. In the global economy, digital flows are now adding more wealth than goods and services
  5. As the U.S., Russia and China have strengths in individual sectors, their relations may well get better
  6. China is fast replacing global rules with connectivity, the OBOR, through infrastructure, new institutions and integrated markets
  7. India alone in continental Asia does not support the OBOR

Where do we fit in this realignment?

  1. The primary concern of the U.S., Russia and China in South Asia is the threat to themselves from terrorist safe havens in Pakistan
  2. The U.S. Senate has both designated India a “major defence partner” to facilitate defence sales and provided Pakistan with nearly $1 billion in military assistance

Should India participate in OBOR?

  1. China is keen that India join that initiative, providing the opportunity to reset relations
  2. We should become a partner in the OBOR adding a “Digital Sustainable Asia” component, an area where we have global leadership, shaping the infrastructure and markets around two nodes
  3. We should also see Pakistan-sponsored terrorism as a symptom of the domination of the military with the OBOR leading to strengthening of democratic control

India should review relations with neighbours, focus on the economy and join the One Belt, One Road to shape the ‘Asian Century’

Note4Students:

In current geopolitical scenario, ‘should Indian join OBOR?’ is a prominent question. This op-ed gives a perspective for that.

What is China’s “One belt One Road” initiative?

  1. It envisages connecting the Pacific coast with Europe by an extensive transport, cyber and energy network along the Eurasian corridor.
  2. Inter-linked with the land route, China wants to establish the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  3. Russia, Australia and the Netherlands, announced its decision to join the China-led AIIB.
  4. The AIIB initiative by China has cause much pain to US plans of a grand Atlantic Alliance.

As Maritime Silk Road takes root, China docks submarine in Malaysia

  1. For the first time, a Chinese submarine has docked at a port in Malaysia, signaling deepening military ties between the two countries
  2. They are already partners in the development of the Beijing- led Maritime Silk Road (MSR)
  3. It is being seen as a trigger for elevated tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) as the Malaysian port has a naval base facing the SCS
  4. It is the second confirmed port visit by a Chinese submarine, following a visit to Sri Lanka in 2014

Deepening ties-The silk route diplomacy:

  1. Submarine port visits can only happen when mutual trust between two navies has reached new heights, as submarine operations are very secretive and sensitive
  2. The visit of the submarine is adding a prominent military dimension to China’s ties with Malaysia which is fast emerging as Beijing’s top partner, close to the Strait of Malacca, along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR)
  3. The China Malaysia port cooperation alliance has already been established, comprising of 11 Chinese and six Malaysian ports
  4. Besides, the Strait of Malacca maritime industrial park, among others, is also being set up
  5. The Malacca industrial park is part of the giant Malacca Gateway Project that China and Malaysia signed last year
  6. It also includes the establishment of the strategically vital deep water port in the Strait

Note4students:

This is an all-time important issue in international relations. Note it for mains. Do the mapping exercise in SCS and South-east Asian Islands, straits etc for Prelims.

China begins first freight train service to London

  1. What: China has begun its first freight train service to London from Yiwu, in the eastern province of Zhejiang
  2. The train will travel for 18 days over more than 12,000 km to reach Britain from China
  3. It will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany,Belgium and France before arriving in London
  4. PM Theresa May has said the relationship with China remains “golden” as she seeks to bring in billions of dollars in Chinese investment as Britain prepares to leave the European Union

Note4students:

This news article will help you to understand the scale of OBOR. Goods will be transported from China to Britain. In comparison, all of India’s infrastructure projects in our neighborhood (not even global projects) are at an early stage of development.

Task for students: Trace the route (countries are mentioned above) on a map.

Chinese aid to Pak project

  1. China will provide a whopping $5.5 billion to Pakistan for the expansion and renovation of its main rail link connecting Peshawar and Karachi
  2. This is a part of the investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

China’s Afghanistan cargo train diplomacy

  • Context: China’s 1st Silk Road train will reach Afghanistan on Sept. 9, 2016
  • The Silk Road Train- 3 major reasons
  1. Securing the OBOR
  2. Safeguarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
  3. Plugging support for separatists operating in the Xinjiang province
  • Background: The decision to run a cargo train follows concerted effort by China to play a leading role in imparting political stability to Afghanistan, in tune with the scaling down of NATO forces from the country
  • Earlier in August, China and Afghanistan held their first strategic military dialogue
  • The quadrilateral mechanism at the military level on counterterrorism among China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan was established during the dialogue

China’s 1st Silk Road train to reach Afghanistan on Sept. 9

  1. The train left China’s eastern city of Nantong on August 25, to cover a 15 day journey to Hairatan, on Afghanistan’s border with Uzbekistan
  2. Significance: Shows Beijing’s effort to consolidate ties with Kabul, as part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative along the ancient Silk Road
  3. Also its efforts to establish to secure transportation links along the New Silk Road, linking Asia with Europe

About Dunhuang & Mogao caves


  1. Dunhuang is an oasis town along the ancient Silk Road in northwestern China
  2. Dunhuang has Mogao caves which contain priceless artworks from times of Buddha
  3. Its intricately painted walls and statues depict the life and thought of Buddha
  4. Also, these are an icon of the vigorous cultural cross-currents that, for centuries, energised ties between India and China, through a branch of the ancient Silk Road

Silk Road revival plans place culture at the centre

  1. What? The first Silk Road International Cultural Expo will be held in Dunhuan in September
  2. Theme: The Mogao grottos
  3. Aim: To anchor a seamless revival of the ancient Silk Road
  4. Soft power: 72 countries have been invited to participate in the mega event
  5. It draws inspiration from China’s traditional engagement with a diverse set of people and cultures along the Silk Road

China’s Silk Road revival steams ahead as cargo train arrives in Iran

OBORTrain


  1. Context: China’s OBOR project
  2. Journey: from China’s eastern Zhejiang province and it took 14 days to reach final destination
  3. Distance: around 9,500 km distance and passed through two Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan
  4. Significance: It marks the revival the ancient Silk Road and gives impetus to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR)
  5. Trade: Boost to bilateral trade between both countries – economic ties worth up to 600 billion dollars
  6. China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and accounts for its 1/3rd of foreign trade

Djibouti, Myanmar and Sri Lanka anchor China’s Maritime Silk Road

  1. Context: A military base in Djibouti along with major port development projects in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are defining the contours of China’s Maritime Silk Road
  2. Background: China’s Maritime Silk Road is an oceanic connectivity project, of which, the Indian Ocean is the core
  3. How significant? Djibouti, an ideal location for securing sea lanes, in the vicinity, which radiate from this area towards Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline and Arabian Sea
  4. China’s Plan: Establishing naval “support facilities” in Djibouti, which has the ambition of emerging as another Singapore, leveraging its position at the intersection of busy shipping lanes
  5. Deal with Myanmar: To develop an Industrial Park and a deep water port in Kyaukphyu in Myanmar
  6. Revival in Sri Lanka: Stalled Colombo port city project under new conditions, and the establishment of a SEZ in Hambantota

What is Silk Road Initiative?

  1. The Silk Road project is an initiative by China to resurrect the ancient maritime Silk Road.
  2. It is perceived to be an attempt by China to ameliorate relations with South and Southeast Asia.
  3. Chinese want to open up the transportation channel from the Pacific to the Baltic Sea.
  4. From which would radiate rail and road routes, which would also connect with East Asia, West Asia, and South Asia.
  5. This initiative aspires to deepen linkages between China and its neighbours via trade, investment, energy, infrastructure, its currency.

Train to Tehran winds along Silk Road into West Asia

China recently flagged of its first direct freight train to Iran from its trading hub of Yiwu, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang.

  1. The container train will cover a journey of 10,399 km in its maiden journey to West Asia in 14 days.
  2. It will exit China through Alataw Pass in western China’s Xinjiang province, and then pass through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before heading for the Iranian capital.
  3. Yiwu is already connected by trains that head for Duisburg in Germany and Madrid.
  4. The new train is part of China’s ‘Silk Road’ plan to increase its influence in Eurasia through infrastructure development and economic exchanges.
  5. That are lacking in development but rich in natural resources and geopolitical importance.

Let’s know about IMO?

It has responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

  1. The IMO is the United Nations specialised agency.
  2. It has 171 Member States and 3 Associate Members.
  3. The IMO’s primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping.
  4. Its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

India re-elected as Member of International Maritime Council

  1. India has been re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  2. India was elected to the IMO council under Category ‘B’ at the 29th session of the Assembly of the IMO held recently in London.
  3. India ranks amongst the top twenty ship owning countries of the world in terms of Gross Tonnage as well as Deadweight.
  4. India has been one of the earliest members of the IMO, having ratified its Convention and joined it as a member-state in the year 1959.
PIB

Nanning emerges as a pillar of the Maritime Silk Road

China has made Nanning one of the focal points of the proposed Maritime Silk Road. By 2020, Nanning port’s capacity is expected to rise to 22.83 million tonnes.

  1. Leveraging the southern city’s natural connectivity linkages with Southeast Asia and growth hubs of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macao.
  2. The waterways of Xijiang River that flows through the city lead to the Pearl River and the South China Sea.
  3. In view of the vast potential of the greater Pearl River Delta region, Chinese authorities are developing the Pearl River-Xijiang River Economic Belt.
  4. When fully developed, the waterways would strongly reinforce Nanning’s state-of-the-art rail and road connectivity to the coast.
  5. Its prized geographic location is making the city the fulcrum of China’s access to the most dynamic zones of Southeast Asia.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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