India Vital for China, US Contention for Influence in Asia

China’s Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) project is being implemented in an all-round manner in the parts of Asia to the west of China, where most countries have jointed China in building roads, railways, pipelines and other infrastructure.

However, the largest country in South Asia, India, still fails to show any clear interest in the project in spite of China’s repeated invitations.

Due to India’s vital importance for China’s One Belt, One Road project, Xu Yuanrong and Xu Boya of Chinese think tank CBN Research have jointly written an article titled “How Great Is Chinese-Indian ‘One Belt, One Road’ Cooperation Potential” on the prospects of India joining the project. The article has been published in quite a few important Chinese media.

The article describes the importance of the project to China and India’s indispensable roles and potential in joining the project from the perspectives of economy, politics, geopolitics and China’s rise.

First, economically, China hopes to establish an economic area with participant countries through the construction of ports, maritime infrastructures, etc. for export of capital, removal of its manufacturing industries to participant countries to utilize the cheap labor there for maintenance of China’s export competitive edge, intensify international cooperation in production capacity, realize its economic restructure and stimulate domestic economic growth.

That will provide investment and industrial development opportunities for India. In this blogger’s post on Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China, he described Modi’s special meeting with major Chinese entrepreneurs to invite them to invest in India.

The project will establish and improve the transport connections by road, rail and sea among participating countries. That is very important for not only China but also India for trade development with India’s surrounding countries.

The establishment of the India-Bangladesh-Myanmar-China economic corridor with high-speed rail link between the four countries will benefit both India and China, especially India if China has moved its labor-intensive industries to India. The rail link will provide an alternative route for cheap Indian goods to China to avoid potential problems in the sea route through the Malacca Strait.

Second, politically, China will get allies and friends through mutual economic benefits and remove surrounding countries’ doubt and concerns about China’s rise and the treat from China’s rise that US and Japanese media are busily exaggerating.

In geopolitics, the maritime Silk Road will enable China to have room of development in the India Ocean and remove surrounding counties’ concerns about China’s presence there. However, that is quite a sensitive issue for India. China has to make great efforts to build mutual trust with India and ease the tension between India and Pakistan through economic cooperation between the two countries.

Last but most important, the article regards One Belt, One Road as China’s strategy to counter US strategies to contain China’s rise with its pivot to Asia and New Silk Road Plan (NSRP).

If China has successfully won over India, it will be free to extend its influence in the entire Asian area to its west. On the contrary, if the US has won over India as its ally in dealing with China, China will have trouble not only with Japan and the US in the east but also India in its west.

The article says that according to Indian scholars’ analysis, the One Belt, One road will help China restore its marine power, remove military pressure from the US and create the environment for China’s stable and peaceful development

The article quotes Jawaharlal Nehru University well-known China expert B. R. Deepak’s commentary titled “One Belt, One Road: China stands at global geopolitical and geo-economic center?”. Mr. Deepak says in the article that China’s major moves over that past few years, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Funds, “One Belt, One Road” and the proposal on the Free Trade Area Asian Pacific (FTAAP) have put China in the center of global geopolitical and geo-economic stage and constrained US hegemony in Asian-Pacific Region.

The article mentions quite a few Chinese scholars’ suggestions on the way to win over India as a participant in the One Belt, One Road project in order to dovetail the interests of both China and India. China has to make efforts to remove India’s concerns by satisfactory handling of the border disputes, the issues of China-Pakistan economic corridor and China’s presence in Indian Ocean, pursue connection between China’s One Belt, One Road with India’s Project Mausam and Spice Route.

The article suggests that China has to pay attention to the following issues and avoid the following risks:

First, China has to pay attention to possible connection between India’s “Act East Policy and United States’ “Asian Rebalance” strategy, which may directly compete with China’s One Belt, One Road. For India, uniting with the US can contain China while for the US, uniting with India will enable the US to really return to Asia. That will certainly be bad for China’s rise.

Second, China shall not be blind to the reality that as a democracy, Indian local governments have high autonomy to refuse to carry out central government’s strategy. As a result, in spite of India central government’s support, some One Belt, One Road projects may not be carried out due to strong local opposition.

Third, China shall vigorously promote the development of Sino-Indian public diplomacy to win Indian popular support through actions and words of good will, mainly including foreign aids, people’s mutual visits, information and cultural exchanges and media propaganda.,

Like some other countries along the One Belt, One Road, Indian people lack understanding of China as a whole. Their impression of China is not favorable. It is due to Chinese media’s lack of influence in the world and the bad image set by the malpractices of some Chinese enterprises and people.

China has to give prominence to its grand strategy of bringing concrete and real benefits to the people in both countries so as to win popular support and bridge the gaps. By so doing, China will establish sound foundation for its One Belt, One Road strategy in India society and public opinions.

Source: “How Great Is Chinese-Indian ‘One Belt, One Road’ Cooperation Potential” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the article in Chinese)