BRICS: China may put renewed pressure on India to join Belt and Road Initiative
China is likely to further press upon India to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to connect the east Asian country with Eurasia through a network of infrastructure projects, with Bangladesh apparently keen to be a part of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious initiative.
Xi is reaching Goa on Saturday morning fairly fresh from a day in Dhaka where he is said to have pledged some $24 billion in various projects in the densely populated country.
The Chinese president will surely take the opportunity of his interactions during the BRICS summit to impress upon India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that by not joining the BRI, New Delhi is missing out an opportunity for economic development.
And, especially because most of India’s neighbours in south Asia are falling in line with the BRI – Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
A Reuters report, quoting a Bangladeshi minister, said that China plans to finance around 25 projects, including a 1,320 megawatt (MW) power plant, and is also keen to build a deep sea port.
“Xi’s visit will set a new milestone. (A) record amount of loan agreements will be signed during the visit, roughly $24 billion,” Bangladesh junior finance minister MA Mannan said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Xi that Bangladesh was willing to work with China on the BRI.
According to China’s official news agency, Xinhua, Hasina said Dhaka was “…willing to actively work with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and support the building of an economic corridor linking Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM), so as to push forward development in various fields such as electricity, energy, technology, agriculture, water resources, investment, transportation infrastructure and connectivity.”
Bangladesh’s information minister Hasanul Huq Inu thanked the Chinese leadership for proposing development initiatives such as the BRI and the BCIM Economic Corridor in an interview to Xinhua.
Interestingly, the BCIM actually predates Xi’s BRI by a few years but has been gradually made part of the broader belt and road project – much to the consternation of India.
India’s lukewarm response to BRI so far has largely been because New Delhi possibly feels that the project will create a vast zone that will be exclusively under China’s influence.
Another major concern that India has with the BRI is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and is one of the six economic corridors under Xi’s pet project – his idea of a lasting legacy.
Despite India repeatedly raising the problem of PoK being a disputed territory, China has gone ahead with construction works for the multi-billion dollar CPEC.
But China has been pressing India to join the BRI with Chinese experts writing reams on how the big South Asian country is crucial to the project – in the north India can be part of the belt and in the south, part of a maritime road on the Indian Ocean.
Xi will possibly take the opportunity of his meeting with Modi to further convince him about the advantages of joining the BRI.
The BCIM will be in focus as well; it is the corridor that if and when completed will connect China to south Asia by land.
A commentary in Xinhua published on Friday talked about its significance.
“Covering 9% of the global landmass, the corridor was first discussed in 1999 by specialists and academics at a meeting in Kunming, Yunnan. The corridor initiative gained momentum during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May 2013,” the commentary said.
“Chinese official data showed that trade between China and member countries of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka -- hit 111.22 billion dollars in 2015, up 4.9% from a year before,” it said.