Why India is not part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit

The dragon is spitting repeated streaks of fire. How long can the elephant be left behind?

Written by Srikanth Kondapalli | Beijing | Published:May 15, 2017 8:40 am
BRI summit, BRI summit India, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, China, India, Indo-China relations, world news, china news, bri summit news Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President of China Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Express Photo by Javed Raja

India has stayed away from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit which began in Beijing on Sunday, citing sovereignty, procedural and leadership issues. As many as 120 countries, including 29 at the top leadership level, attended the inaugural, underlining President Xi Jinping’s description of this being the “project of the century.”

India has cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as the main reason for refusing to participate in the summit. Sovereignty and territorial integrity issues, which tie in with the nationalist nature of prime minister Modi’s government, are clearly top of the agenda.

Interestingly, this is true for Xi Jinping as well. China’s sovereignty claims over the disputed South China Sea islands has led it to challenge the world. Also, President Xi, soon after taking over as the leader in 2012, suggested he will not sacrifice “core interests” for the sake of developmental interests.

So is the CPEC only a “commercial” project? Surely, that’s not true. The fact that the Chinese have begun to deploy 30,000 “security personnel” to protect the projects along the CPEC route makes it an active player in the politics of the Indian sub-continent. Clearly, this is a case of double standards.

Former external affairs Anand Sharma, from the Congress party, was willing to concede Chinese investments in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir provided similar investments were made in Kashmir. However, the ruling BJP is clearly made of a different cloth. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, soon after taking over in May 2014, told her counterpart Wang Yi that India’s “One China” policy must be congruent to China’s “One India” policy, meaning, the Chinese must be sensitive to India’s claims in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

But the Chinese went ahead with the CPEC. For the BJP, this is also a highly sensitive issue as it is a coalition partner in the government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Also Read | Belt and Road Forum: Meet takes off without India, Xi Jinping says no harm to stability

India has also expressed concern on the evolution of the BRI. The foreign ministry spokesperson pointed out that mutual agreements on infrastructure projects should be transparent and debt repayments be made easier for recipient countries. The latter element is fast emerging as the key ideological difference between the two Asian powers as they expand their sphere of influence in South Asia.

The context of this rising tension is important. Chinese troops have allegedly crossed the Line of Actual Control that separates India in April 2013, in September 2014 during Xi Jinping’s visit to India, as well as in October 2015 and mid-2016. Chinese press reports say this was in response to the Indian logistics build-up and raising of a Strike Corps. Indian reports say it was only responding to a Chinese logistics build up in Tibet since the 1980s.

More recently, China has been reluctant to proscribe Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council as well as refuse India full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India’s decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh didn’t go down well in Beijing.

Ironically, India is the second largest contributor to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has allocated $100 billion for BRI and also funds the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. India has over 8 per cent voting rights at AIIB, and remains rightly concerned about the larger strategic issues of the BRI.

President Xi’s ambitions are clear. At the BRI inaugural he said it would usher in a “new type of international relations”. In June 2013 he had told former US president Barak Obama about China’s intention to establish a “new type of major power relations” — suggesting that China’s global ambitions had increased beyond the inward-looking US, depleting Russia and the crises-ridden European Union. But Xi also insisted that the BRI’s objective is to build partnerships and not alliances. This opens the door for maneuverability, on China’s part as well as on the part of countries like India.

India’s decision to boycott the summit is not surprising. There was some talk about Delhi being represented by Indian embassy officials in Beijing. However, this was rejected as the presence of any junior or senior officials, representatives of the government of India, would be seen as sanctioning the summit.

Certainly, the battle for South Asia has been joined. Delhi is clearly worried about China’s expanding presence in its own neighbourhood – which it believed to be part of its own sphere of influence. But China’s maritime understanding with Sri Lanka, its decision to sell eight submarines to Pakistan and enhance the facilities at Gwadar port, prowl the Indian Ocean with its submarines as well as build a base in Djibouti in Africa have enraged New Delhi.

The dragon is spitting repeated streaks of fire. How long can the elephant be left behind?

Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is attending the BRI summit in Beijing as a guest of the Chinese government

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  1. G
    George Cruz
    May 16, 2017 at 3:00 am
    This is one of the wisest and excellence decision by India not to be the part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit initiated by China. Many of the countries who are joining this BRI project are the banana republics like Pak, Sri Lanka, and other African countries and India wouldn't benefit anything (ZILCH) from this BRI. Yes, India the big elephant is smarter than the deceitful dragon which proclaimed "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai" and backstabbed India. The Chinese ultimate aim here is to gobble the portion of the POK and retain total control of the POK from foolish Pak.
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    1. T
      TIHAEwale
      May 15, 2017 at 7:51 pm
      getting POK back into our control is sheer bull when fact is India with huge cost of men and material is finding it difficult to retain our part of Kashmir. Today China economic might allow it the luxury of countries know towing to dictates of China. even US companies realises it makes sense to get goods manufactured in China. so in short those who question views of Prof Kondapalli are school drop outs comfortable in muslim bashing who don't even understand economics of buffallo rearing
      Reply
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        Luv Markandeya
        May 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm
        This guy shouldn't be allowed to come back to India. I think he can work better with Chinese and pkstanis. He is not one of us- he is not a true Indian. Either he is a bootlicking pest or someone who wants to grab some attention in this time of crisis looming large on India.lor may be both. How could somebody even think of going to china at this time to attend the BRI summit when the entire nation is united against Chinese bullying against India. Shameful!
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        1. S
          sochee
          May 15, 2017 at 5:18 pm
          Now Ukraine is paying the price for its imprudence of giving up nuclear deterrent on the urance of NATO propped up by USA. Donald Trump is threatening to abandon it altogether undermining the security architecture carefully put in place by USA since 1945 backed by Brettonwood sisters. Over the years China has worked single mindedly to undermine these ins utions. America realised that she is no longer the hedgemon.Its power is dependent on cheap money that China is pouring in in her Treasury bonds. So she can do nothing when North Korea flaunts her missiles and hydrogen bombs and helplessly watches the situation in middle East. In the face of rampaging China the traditional enemy of China India has to stand firm as an alternative on which others can depend as reliable partner. By deciding not to parti te in the Conference India has signalled this. The next thirty years will make India a Super Power while others will be Chinese slaves.
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          1. S
            sochee
            May 15, 2017 at 4:50 pm
            In 1920s when Chiang ki sheik visited India Congress Party under hi gave him a g welcome. He was discretely told about certain misrepresentation in the Chinese maps about Indian territory and asked to rectify the same by the Congress leadership. Chiang ured Congress leadership that those misrepresentation s would be rectified. It was never done. After Kuomintang government was defeated and driven out of China s mainland Zhou en la visited India. Nehru cosy with him. He was asked to rectify the maps published by China. He promised but did nothing. Then came the ault on Tibet and on the border with India. Then the 1962 aggression against India. That post aggression status quo has been maintained because USA has declared it as a redline for China. America was a guaranter of peace until the fall of Berlin wall. After that it has been on retreat. It has opened up space for international adventurers like Putin in Russia or Communist Party of China.
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            1. S
              saleem
              May 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm
              Good riddance to India , we in stan are happy
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              1. E
                Employ Ment
                May 15, 2017 at 4:02 pm
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                  Luv Markandeya
                  May 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm
                  This guy shouldn't be allowed to come back to India. I think he can work better with Chinese and stanis. He is not one of us- he is not a true Indian. Either he is a bootlicking pest or someone who wants to grab some attention in this time of crisis looming large on India.
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                    Luv Markandeya
                    May 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm
                    Despite India's objections, and decision to boycott, this good for nothing scholar went to china, on Chinese invitation to attend BRI.?! And then, has the audacity to make it public. W F. These anti nationals needs a solid bashing. If they are this dishonest in their approach towards country, wonder what they'd do in academics. Bootlickers of china! Why don't these ppl just take the Chinese citizenship. No wonder JNU is rotting coz of these third grade inferior insecure insignificant teachers who preach sel nationalism and nations pride for petty Chinese money. I'm sure this guy must be tel the Chinese, don't worry sir, we will keep raising our voices in support of OBOR. Just keep giving us some charity money and conference invites, like you do to so many of them in several universities, research bodies and of course the left-dominated lover majority of Indian media.
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                    1. D
                      dhruv
                      May 15, 2017 at 4:22 pm
                      C'mon you illiterate d.o.g, shut the f.u.c.k up already!
                      Reply
                      1. L
                        Luv Markandeya
                        May 15, 2017 at 6:32 pm
                        Did I ask you to introduce yourself s.o.b half Chinese!
                    2. K
                      ksp
                      May 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm
                      OBOR, is it a economic or a political configuration or both? Well, when you are trying to bring diverse countries for furthering international trade it may p out as an economic bloc. But when it involves territory its entirely political and diplomatic issue. In this segment, it seems China is trying to ascertain its political superiority by using its economic clout. One may wonder if China is pursuing an Ashvamedha Yagna? The political purpose does indicate that. However, by bringing US around the subject China is trying to give a legitimacy to the economic theory. US should remember the the south china sea fiasco while justifying its inclusion in the OBOR configuration.
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                      1. D
                        D.Bahl
                        May 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm
                        Simply In dia progressing with the OBOR project would have given a clear signal to the world as In dia's acceptance to the current occupation of its territories by Pak istan and Ch ina as In dia's new international borders i.e. accepting the surrender of its currently occupied territories by Pak istan and Ch ina. What is more shocking is that Anand Sharma of the Congress party was happy with the Ch inese proposal! Thank God BJP has decided to not to cave in to any pressure and it was the right decision not to progress with this project unless Pak istan and Ch ina withdrew from the occupied In dian territories.
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                        1. V
                          vijay
                          May 15, 2017 at 11:58 am
                          It will be too shortsighted and stupid to equate this with a an event at the sa ay night fight club between Mr Modi and Jinping. The only deciding factor here should be what is good for our near and short term interest. Because The BRI is a g project which may take best part of thirty years to complete and by that time the dynamics of our relation ship would have changed for the better and most of the patriots who are screaming for jinping's blood would be either dead and gone or at least septuagenarians with weak eye sight and hard of hearing to know what the is going on around them. considering all these factors We should have shown our face s at the meet while keeping our .own counsel.. In diplomatic parlance it is called something like "Hunting with the hounds and running with the hare" I thought our babus were very good at it. This Boo Boo by them is unexplainable or are they not what they cracked up to be?
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                          1. B
                            Balakrishnan
                            May 15, 2017 at 11:41 am
                            India is rigth - china economical , bubble is busting , "empty nest syndrome" is creeping - it is disprate measure to counter economic instablity- india need not worry
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                            1. V
                              vijay
                              May 15, 2017 at 11:33 am
                              Our recalcitrant policy makers and PM's advisors could not see the trees for the wood and sold him a unprofitable proposition born out of charged emotion rather than cool and calculative heads. What at stakes here are the immediate issues like seat in nsg club, non involvement in the stan issues and peace in north eastern border and general harmony. An impartial china is better than a hostile one.Secondly the effects of BRI, either good or bad, would not have materialised for another 30 years.Who knows by that time we could be bosom buddies.. Moreover, by parti ting in the meet we could have made china feel obligated to reciprocate favourably to our causes by not objecting to our aspiration at the UN or not responding in favour or porkistan if we decided to hit them stead we effectively closed the door in their faces. It is a shame we have to suffer because of some hawks in the center.
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                              1. K
                                Krishnan
                                May 15, 2017 at 10:56 am
                                What politicking cannot do, simple economics will. From India's perspective, CPEC is a massive white ele phant. India can very well do without it. OBOR too sounds like a lot of hot air. Can avoid.
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                                1. J
                                  Joshyramamurthy Murthy
                                  May 15, 2017 at 10:47 am
                                  What India was doing all these years when in pok highways are made? Sleeping?? Or no guts to attack China or pak??? Or no money for war?? Now it is certain that Kashmir will be taken away from India, pok will get a very big dam, highway, corridor, canals, powerplant etc etc, then Indian side kashmiri start asking India what they have got from India?? What India will answer???? Then pok people get richer and with China Russia help Indian administered kashmiri to join stan. India then will be in trouble Its a total failure of diplomacy by modi. His public announcement of Baluchistan independance had angered pak and China and they have answered with a slap ( slipper slap or shoe slap?) To modi on his both cheeks Modi if he has any self respect should resign and get visa to visit pok Himalaya for tapasya(prayer) In a matter of just three years, we came to know that what an pm we have chosen, Kashmir is lost for ever and China is now superpower,
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                                  1. M
                                    Madhukar Nikam
                                    May 15, 2017 at 11:34 am
                                    Sorry to say you aren't have aiota of understanding of any of the issues, except loads of cra p against Modi....thus forming a crude stupid d opinion
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                                    Ajay
                                    May 15, 2017 at 10:31 am
                                    Rivers water flow from India into stan is the best answer to CPEC. India must start working faster on hydro Power projects in JK Himachal and Punjab. We need water in desert of Rajasthan. Let's divert all the rivers water flowing into stan towards dry lands of Rajasthan. India will have to work faster than Chinese.
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                                    1. N
                                      Naren
                                      May 15, 2017 at 10:51 am
                                      Salute to 56".
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                                      1. D
                                        DILIP
                                        May 15, 2017 at 11:14 pm
                                        What happens if China goes ahead with many more like the Zangmu Hydropower Project on the Yarlung Zangbo River?
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                                        vasudevan
                                        May 15, 2017 at 10:29 am
                                        It is a g iose plan by China to s up its depleting economy. It is ree under debts, while at the same time having huge foreign reserves. It is trying to deploy all its resources, both material and labour in these projects, which is a win win for China. The countries where the investments are being made, will become indebted to China. China on the other hand would have made its economy and labour rich, by relying their services to outside foreign projects.
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                                        1. M
                                          Madhukar Nikam
                                          May 15, 2017 at 11:35 am
                                          Very apt summary
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                                        2. M
                                          Mona singh
                                          May 15, 2017 at 10:22 am
                                          This writer is from JNU. We all know what JNU stands for-Anti National activity. It is a den of Leftist. No wonder he is attending as guest of China. Have u heard any leftist speaking against China and still they enjoy following in ins utions like JNU. Past Govts have been blind to this development. Let us rectify this malady by removing these anti nationals. Boycotting OBOR is a right decision
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                                          1. S
                                            Suhan
                                            May 15, 2017 at 11:20 am
                                            You are sick minded you will never ever come out of the cage of narrow mind.
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                                            Balbir Singh
                                            May 15, 2017 at 9:57 am
                                            I have worked in Mainland China for the last 10 years as 'buyer ' of various goods from them for exporting to USA. I have dealt with leading trading companies and enterprices located in many cities. My observation is CHINESE ARE EXTREMELY, CUNNING, SELFISH AND CRAFTY, THEY WOULD ONLY ANYTHING THAT BENEFIT THEM. Despite geographical proximity and many similarities of our cultures, they have an eternal hatred for INDIA. THIS IS NEW IN THE MODERN HISYORY. EVERYTHING STARTED WHEN DALAI LAMA WAS GIVEN REFUGE IN INDIA AFTER CHINA OCCUPIED TIBET. THIS IS THE UNWANTED DECISION OF THE GREAT NEHRU. So thanks to Nehru who is responsible for ruining the relatiosnship between China and India. CHINA IS NOT HELPING INDIA IN ANYTHING AND DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO GIVE TROUBLE TO INDIA - LIKE SUPPORTING INTRNATIONAL TERRORISTS LIVING IN STQN BECAUSE THEY ARE TROUB INDIA-ENEMY OF A ENEMY IS THEIR FRIEND ! WHY SHOLD WE HELP THEM. WE SHOULD NOT COOPERATE IN SILK ROAD PROJECTT
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                                            1. M
                                              Manu USA
                                              May 15, 2017 at 10:32 am
                                              Very true. They have problem with Muslim terrorists too. stan has training camps. Still they help stan.
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                                              1. V
                                                vijay
                                                May 15, 2017 at 10:47 am
                                                Balbir can you name any business in India sell product at cost? Secondly, I know your buying price in china and what you sell it for in the USA. You mark it up by a cruel 300 .. I know a shirt which cost less than 5 dollars in china are sold in the Us for 50 to 70 dollars.Would you say that it is fair? As for Chinese being crafty,cunning etc, at least they don't show you some thing and sell you some thing different. neither do they lie and cheat in business. Agreed,. they will run rings around you in the hagg and may even have called you a KIL KUI (black devil,) Relax, that is a term of endearment. Nehru did what he thought best at that time. Why didn't successive government mend fences with china since his death? Every one thought that china will be a third world country for the next 200 years and did not take it seriously .. In reality, in the last four decades they became behind and won the economic race. So much for your bad mouthing.
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                                                  DILIP
                                                  May 15, 2017 at 11:10 pm
                                                  Can you translate this for me- Ní hè lǔ shì yìndù zuìgāo de lǐngdǎo rén? My Chinese sophomore sent this to me.
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                                                  vijaykumar
                                                  May 15, 2017 at 9:55 am
                                                  China is our enemy Pl keep this in mind I want to from this professor whether he considers china as aggressor in 1962 or not?
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