With US President Donald Trump on his maiden visit to India, the two countries are expected to have discussed the Blue Dot Network, a proposal that will certify infrastructure and development projects. Observers have referred to the proposal as a means of countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched over six years ago.
What is the Blue Dot network?
Led by the US’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Blue Dot network was jointly launched by the US, Japan (Japanese Bank for International Cooperation) and Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in November 2019 on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Thailand.
It is meant to be a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together to promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development”.
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On Monday, The Indian Express reported that the network is like a “Michelin Guide” for infrastructure projects. This means that as part of this initiative, infrastructure projects will be vetted and approved by the network depending on standards, as per which, the projects should meet certain global infrastructure principles.
The projects that are approved will get a “Blue Dot”, thereby setting universal standards of excellence, which will attract private capital to projects in developing and emerging economies.
Countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
The proposal for the Blue Dot network is part of the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at countering Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious BRI.
Probal Dasgupta, a strategic expert and author, told The Indian Express that while Blue Dot may be seen as a counter to BRI, it will need a lot of work for two reasons. First, there is a fundamental difference between BRI and Blue Dot — while the former involves direct financing, giving countries in need immediate short-term relief, the latter is not a direct financing initiative and therefore may not be what some developing countries need. “The question is if Blue Dot is offering first-world solutions to third-world countries?”
Secondly, Dasgupta mentions that Blue Dot will require coordination among multiple stakeholders when it comes to grading projects. “Given the past experience of Quad, the countries involved in it are still struggling to put a viable bloc. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Blue Dot fares in the long run.” (Quad is an informal strategic dialogue between the US, Japan, Australia and India)
US foreign policy towards China
Prior to 2001, US foreign policy was focussed towards integrating China into its plan, but this changed after China’s emergence as a global superpower. Under Barack Obama, US foreign policy started shifting focus to Asia, where the US wanted to counter China’s growing influence.
In fact, the National Security Strategy (NSS) under Trump says the following, “China seeks to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reaches of its state-driven economic model, and reorder the region in its favour.”
From the US’s point of view, the Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from India’s west coast to the west coast of the US, is the most economically dynamic and populous part of the world.
Further, the US sees China’s infrastructure investments and trade strategies as reinforcing its geopolitical aspirations, including efforts to build and militarise outposts in the South China Sea, which as per the US, restricts the free movement of trade and undermines regional stability.
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