Chinese state-run daily Global Times on 25th June termed India’s efforts towards establishing trade linkages in the South Asian region as ‘geopolitical stubbornness’. The daily which reflects the views of government urged New Delhi to develop economic and trade relations with Islamabad instead of entirely bypassing Pakistan.
The write up squirmed at the prospects of India developing trade ties with Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries through recently opened Afghanistan-India Air Corridor that commenced the first cargo flight of medicinal plants worth $5 million in early June.
Additionally, the transit accord on the Chabahar port signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan in 2016 facilitates India to invest around $500m to develop the strategic port. Till Chabahar gets operational, the air corridor could serve as just a makeshift measure. India could persuade US to lift sanctions on Iran for faster completion of Chabahar for opening of the trade route to Afghanistan and beyond. Modi expressed the intent to link to the world, but prioritised connectivity among countries in the region. Unfortunately, China views with suspicion Indian initiatives to more actively participate on bilateral trade for regional economic development. It brands all such connectivity efforts as ‘stubborn geopolitical thinking.’ Beijing is truly worried that Indian efforts could push back against the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative’ to create India’s own connectivity network as ‘a strategy to counterbalance the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)’. Tunnel vision makes China believe that the One-Belt, One-Road initiative has ‘created the opportunity and platform for cooperation between India and Pakistan’ and ‘regional connectivity cannot live without the cooperation’ between both. But India rightly views CPEC – the cornerstone of Beijing´s ‘One belt one road’ policy – as a bilateral investment between two allies and would have nothing to do with it.
China rushed through CPEC ensuring all along that India is kept away from construction projects. Now that the road constructions are complete, Beijing is too eager to include India so that it can milk the benefits of trade. Hence The Global Times offers unsolicited advice to India on its economy and prudent management of resources.
China’s logic surprises the world community. When Beijing builds ports and roads disregarding sovereign rights of nations, it is for trade. If India builds infrastructure, it is perceived as strategy against other nations. Beijing has opposed tooth and nail India’s interest everywhere – be it NSG, UNSC membership or Massod Azhar. So Indian push back was inevitable and just a matter of time. China must appreciate India’s stand. Given all these, how could Beijing expect India to be a part of CPEC at this belated stage?
The new air trade route could boost trade ties between India and Afghanistan, but may not be ‘commercially viable and sustainable for trade exchange’. Land-route through Pakistan offers the most efficient and cost-effective channel for trade but Islamabad’s stubborn refusal to open the route left India with no other alternative but to bypass Pakistan.
India’s massive modernization of major ports and interlinking with inland waterways, dedicated freight rail lines and highways constitutes the biggest consolidated port modernization since China modernized its own ports in the early 2000’s. Investment in port logistics compares well with China’s investment in port logistics in Pakistan. India’s huge population of 1.2 billion incorporating an overwhelming middle class constitutes largest market. Central Asia and Afghanistan may not be that big market for India which had to expand its infrastructure. It will be interesting to watch who will be consumers for Chinese goods coming through CPEC.
India is endeavouring to develop its own economic corridors- one on the western flank to connect to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia and another on the eastern flank into South Asia – all these to eliminate poverty, sustain its teeming population and benefit countries in the region.
China has taught all how to prioritise national interest over everything else. It needs to introspect whether it ever listened to any advice from others. So, naturally why will any other country listen to it? Beijing could view Indo-Afghan corridor as a counter balance to CPEC, but that is the reality of trade and national interests. If Indian efforts are geopolitical stubbornness so are Chinese efforts to get crash into Indian territories for CPEC. Successfully managing to convince India, by understanding its aspirations of NSG and UNSC membership may be a better method to open up a market of 15% of the world population. Threats do not work every time and could be counter-productive.
Source Link – New Kerala