India never leaves anyone empty-handed even in warfare. This is what we can see as its counter to China’s policies like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The String of Pearls and CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) are the subset of BRI putting India in disquietude.
What is this BRI all about? Why is it a matter of great concern for India? And, how is India countering China? Let’s have a look at this issue.
One Belt One Road renamed as Belt Road Initiative is a global development Strategy adopted by China in 2013 involving infrastructure development of roads, railways, bridges, airports, telecommunication networks and many more across 70 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa accounting for 65% of the world population and one-third of world’s GDP. The project aims at ameliorating trade, economic growth and regional integration. BRI consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt connecting China with South Asia, South-east Asia, Central Asia Russia and Europe by land inspired from the 2000 years old Silk Route and Maritime Silk Road connecting Chinese coastal areas with South Asia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. China spent $545 billion till 2019 for BRI.
The String of Pearls intends to increase China’s military influence in Indian Ocean threatens India’s national Security, power projection, trade and territorial integrity. China’s debt trap policy has triggered its influence across Indian Ocean. Recently China upgraded Djibouti Port as a full-fledged naval base which was set up in 2017 as a logistic Unit. China is also planning to militarise Gwadar Port in Pakistan to deploy its nuclear submarine and has begun working for the infrastructure development. It even facelifted Feydhoo Finolhu island in Maldives by 6000 sq. Km. To India’s grief, the Chinese company Powertech technology has been contracted to construct a permanent submarine base in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh.
Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka is already in the hands of China for a lease of 99 years as a result of Sri Lanka’s insolvency or we can say a victim of China’s Debt Trap policy just like Maldives, Pakistan and Tajikistan.
Now comes India into the scene. When China made the String of Pearls for India, India gifted them with a “Necklace of Diamond”. India has started to revamp ports at Duqm in Oman right between the two Chinese pearls (bases), Diego Gracia, Chabahar in Iran, Assumption Islands in Seychelles and Sabang Port in Indonesia right at the entrance of Malacca Strait through which a large chunk of trade ship passes on to China.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mongolia and credited $1 billion to construct its first-ever oil refinery and established an air corridor to end its dependency over China.
India enhanced its ties with Japan; an important rival of China. India –Japan arrived at Special Strategic and Global partnership and signed the Civil Nuclear Agreement with Japan and India is the only country from outside of the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty to do so.
India also strengthened its bond with Vietnam and commenced oil exploration with Vietnam in the South China Sea which is claimed by China by its alleged “Nine dash lines”. India conducted Joint Naval Exercise in Vietnamese waters in 2018. Akash missile deal with it is also on the anvil.
China Pakistan Economic corridor is still a major concern for India since it passes through POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and infringes India’s sovereignty. CPEC will hamper India’s strategic interests in South Asia and could help China encircle India.
Once again India comes to the strike with its Asia- Africa Growth Corridor in cooperation with Japan and other African countries benefiting India against China’s BRI. It envisages a sustainable and economic development between Asia and Africa. It gives priority to development in health, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, agro-processing, disaster management and skill enhancement.
India’s other hit to China is through INSTC (International North- South Transport Corridor). This 7200km long multi-modal network of rail, road and shipping will increase trade between Russia and India will reduce the time taken and cost incurred than that of the earlier route through Suez Canal. The agreement was signed in 2002 and now it has over 13 members under this project.
Many projects Chabahar Port Construction in Iran get affected due to the US sanction against Iran. India couldn’t keep its promise of crediting money to Mongolia, which is yet another setback to India taking Mongolia back to China.
Even though India has hit back with its counter policies, that won’t be enough to empower India. India should make drastic changes in its foreign policies especially to counter China in the sense that India should put an end to its policy of “Reconciliation with China” and opt “Containment of China policy". Moreover, India should always be vigilant and equipped for a “Two Front War "against China and Pakistan keeping in mind that “You can change your friends not your neighbours”.