Millennium Post

Predicaments galore

China subtly sounded the bugle in 2013 when it announced the trans-continental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that was essentially claimed to be an infrastructure project. As matters stand today, this series of coordinated infrastructure projects has a much more expansive framework, scope, and ambition that includes financial and humanitarian aid projects. The second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) that began Thursday in Beijing is essentially a stock-taking exercise for China's hegemonic undertaking. This initiative has come to massively dominate the country's foreign policy over the last five years. The impact of this orientation of China on other countries, particularly the neighbours, is something to warily watch out for. China's Marshall Plan, the '21st Century Silk Road' has been progressively taking more countries in its fold than in May 2017 when the BRF was first held. This new silk route is the 'belt' of terrestrial and maritime route connecting Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa. This 'Project of the Century' has already started to show its impact on the nations that together account for nearly half of the world's population. In a most recent development, China removed BRI map that showed (part of) Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as parts of India. With J&K, the issue is the disputed territory with Pakistan with respect to the unresolved political status of the region (PoK is a core part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor); with regard to Arunachal Pradesh, China claims the state to be part south Tibet (Tibet being another disputed territory). This clearly signifies that China is smartly capitalising on the unresolved dispute of strategic territorial locations and also by means of economic initiatives, is perpetuating the disputes to suit its interests. Last month, China destroyed nearly 30,000 world maps printed in the country for not showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory. Though India is boycotting the second BRF also, underway in Beijing, the map incorrectly showed India to be part of the BRI and does not clearly distinguish PoK that is crucial to CPEC. India's reason to protest China's flagship undertaking is that it violates India's territorial integrity by disregarding the matter of PoK; and also because another significant project under BRI that links Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, threatening India's strategic interest. After India's resentment for the BRI summit for the second time in a row, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday dangled a carrot before New Delhi with vows to prevent debt risks. China's debt-trap diplomacy is its weapon of choice to make its economic invasion in other (smaller and weaker) countries and in the process, prepare grounds for colonising these territories for their natural resources, labour, and whatever other benefits. Lack of transparency in deals under BRI between Chinese companies and local governments is also a matter of concern. Not only should India tread with caution, but it must also strengthen the domestic economy and make it robust and self-sufficient so as to cushion the impact of external events. This includes resolving the festering issue of Kashmir and retrieving PoK.

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