Why is it in the news?
- China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) commemorates its 10th anniversary in 2023, signifying a decade of ambitious global infrastructure and trade development.
Overview of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
- The BRI, launched in 2013, is a multifaceted strategy aimed at enhancing global connectivity and cooperation.
- It seeks to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa, and Europe through a network of land and sea routes.
- Originally named ‘One Belt, One Road,‘ it was later renamed the BRI to convey a more inclusive initiative.
It involves two key components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road.
- Silk Road Economic Belt: Focused on overland transportation routes across Eurasia, improving connectivity, infrastructure, and trade.
- Maritime Silk Road: Emphasizes maritime connections, ports, shipping routes, and maritime infrastructure from the South China Sea to Africa and Europe.
- Enhancing international connectivity, infrastructure, trade, and economic cooperation through diverse projects, including railways, ports, highways, and energy infrastructure.
Six key development corridors under the Silk Road Economic Belt:
- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
- New Eurasian Land Bridge Economic Corridor.
- China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor.
- China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.
- China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor.
- China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
- Countries participating in the BRI have witnessed growth in trade and investments with China, leading to preferential treatment and policy benefits.
- Trade with BRI partners registered an annualgrowth rate of 6.4%, reaching USD 19.1 trillion between 2013 and 2022.
India’s stance on BRI
- India opposes BRI due to sovereignty and transparency concerns.
- It boycotted BRI summits in 2017 and 2019, and not endorsing BRI joint statements by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
- Primary objection: CPEC passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), a territory India claims as its own.
- India advocates for adherence to international norms, rule of law, financial sustainability, and avoiding debt traps or environmental and social risks.
- Instead promotes other initiatives such as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a G7 initiative for funding infrastructure projects in developing countries.
Issues concerned with BRI
- Debt Burden: There are concerns over debt sustainability, transparency, and “debt-trap diplomacy” in countries with weak governance.
- Multilateral Governance: The decentralized nature of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), primarily composed of bilateral projects, poses coordination and governance challenges. Unlike the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRI lacks a centralized governing structure, hindering collective issue resolution.
- Political Tensions: Geopolitical rivalries like the India-China border dispute have hindered the implementation of BRI projects in affected regions, highlighting how political tensions can impede the initiative’s advancement and cooperation among participating countries.
- Environmental and Social Concerns: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has drawn criticism due to concerns about its environmental and social impacts. Balancing infrastructure development with environmental sustainability and community well-being remains a significant challenge for BRI stakeholders.
- Geostrategic Concerns: Geopolitical concerns have arisen as China’s influence and control over vital infrastructure in BRI partner nations have grown, prompting some countries to reconsider their involvement in the initiative, citing potential risks to their sovereignty and strategic interests.
· Initially BRI included the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor. Later India refrained from joining the BRI, voicing its opposition to the CPEC that runs from Xinjiang in China’s west, through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.
· With India staying out, the BCIM corridor has also stalled, and has been replaced by a later launched China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.