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Not that silken
Posted:May 23, 2017
 
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Ignorance may not always be bliss. India has decided to ignore China's One Belt One Road initiative, which was launched recently in Beijing in the presence of the president of Delhi's 'all-weather friend' - Russia - as well as representatives from the United States of America, Europe and even Japan, a nation known for its testy ties with China. India's concerns over Obor are related to the principles of sovereignty and security. 
 
A section of the project - the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - cuts through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, a territory India claims as its own. New Delhi is also wary of Obor's potential to further extend China's clout over India's sphere of influence. Nations from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, barring India and Bhutan, are eager participants in Obor. There is merit in India's concerns. But New Delhi cannot afford to cut a lonely, petulant figure on Obor. 
 
The scale of China's undertaking, modelled on the ancient Silk Road, is staggering. Obor seeks to develop connectivity projects - ports, roads, rail networks and industrial enclosures - with the help of massive funds, one trillion or more according to some estimates, in 60 countries and connect China to Central Asia and Europe. In terms of its reach, Obor has real transformative capacity. Moreover, under Donald Trump's mantra of protectionism, the US is apparently keen on limiting its involvement in Asia, lending China, and, consequently, Obor, even greater leverage. This makes India's diplomatic inertia inexplicable. 
 
At present, as a counter move, New Delhi is working with Tokyo to build infrastructure projects in Africa, Iran, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. These plans must be brought to fruition. But there is merit in exploring Obor's potential without compromising India's strategic and security interests. In a globalized economy, nation states have been known to set aside mutual antagonism and suspicion for the sake of economic benefits that can ease diplomatic strain.
 
India's policy to keep Obor at arm's length could also be the fall-out of a worrying shift. Under a government that claims to put the nation first, India's foreign policy, seemingly, is no longer immune from domestic political compulsions. The deterioration in ties with Pakistan as well as the muddle in Kashmir are cases in point. The same fate must not befall Sino-India ties.
 
Telegraph, May 23, 2017
 
 
 
 
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