In what could counter China’s ambitious One Belt One Road project, the US has moved to revive two large-scale infrastructure projects in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and India could play a key role in the plans. The Donald Trump administration has sought to revive the New Silk Road initiative. The plan was announced in July 2011 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Chennai. It has also sought to revive the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor that connects South Asia and South East Asia.
1. The Trump administration in its maiden budget briefly outlined the plans on Tuesday. The budget indicated that NSR will likely be a public-private partnership project. India could also be a key player in that initiative.
2. James McBride of the Council on Foreign Relations explains that the NSR refers to suite of joint investment projects and regional trade blocs that have the potential to bring economic growth and stability to Central Asia. McBride said that post the 2009 surge of troops in Afghanistan, “Washington began to lay out a strategy for supporting these initiative through diplomatic means”.
3. The NSR project had hit roadblocks in Obama’s second term with John Kerry running the state department. However, it seems, the Trump administration is looking at the option of economic diplomacy in South, Southeast and Central Asia. China’s OBOR is an example of how geoeconomics and economic diplomacy can be a good alternative to geostrategy in order to gain regional control.
4. While NSR will be focused primarily on connecting Afghanistan with its neighbouring countries, the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor will link South Asia with Southeast Asia. The support for the budgetary requests, according to the US state department, will be leveraged via side-by-side collaboration with regional countries. It will also raise support from bilateral donors, multilateral development banks as well as private sector players.
5. Afghanistan remains the key area of focus for the US. India enjoys close ties with Afghanistan and has contributed massively in helping the country in some of its key infrastructure projects. The state department said that the importance of the NSR grows in light of the transition happening in Afghanistan. It added that the US “strives to help the Afghan people succeed and stand on their own.”