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

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  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.
    Reply
    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
      1. L
        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!
        Reply
        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.
          Reply
          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.
            Reply
            1. S
              saleem
              May 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm
              Good riddance to India , we in stan are happy
              Reply
              1. E
                Employ Ment
                May 15, 2017 at 4:02 pm
                💲💲मुफ्त रोजगार योजना💲💲 ✔मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और कमाए हर महीने 15,000 - 50,000 रुपए ✔अब कोई नही रहेगा बेरोज़गार और नही करेगा कोई बेरोज़गार आत्महत्या ✔क्योंकि अब आ गई है 21वीं सदी की सबसे बड़ी रोज़गार क्रांति ✔हमारा सपना पूरे भारत को ही नही पूरी दुनिया को डिजिटल इंडिया से जोड़ना 💲सबका साथ सबका विकास💲 ➡शुरुवात कैसे करे ✔C.h.a.m.p`C.a.s.h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ➡चैलेंज को पूरा करे ➡और इंकम करनी शुरू करे 👇🏻इसे जरूर नोट कर ले👇🏻 स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ........................ Hvcghxyjdh
                Reply
                1. L
                  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.
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments