While economic diplomacy is the mainstay, China’s maritime presence in the Middle East is also growing and together these support a clear and strong political message on China’s domestic and foreign policy interests that countries in the region are reluctant to contest.
The eventual listing of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the UN is as much a ‘big diplomatic win’ for China as for India – after all, Beijing prevented New Delhi from achieving the objective for ten years.
The political, social and security implications do not look pretty for countries participating in the BRI. New Delhi might, however, consider if absolute opposition to the BRI is ultimately doing either its relationship with China or its own global image any long-term good.
China professions of neutrality in South Asia cannot be taken seriously and are, in fact, attempts to create a false sense of equivalence between India and Pakistan.
India’s attenuation of economic links with Pakistan risk reducing its options in that country and making it even more dependant on China. New Delhi’s action shrinks its own leverage in South Asia while increasing China’s role.
Does India have it in itself to become an economic and political alternative to China?
For democracies to compete with the Chinese model, they will have to ensure both economic and social well-being and political accountability.
When complaints are raised against BRI, Beijing is quick to publicly offer to renegotiate terms. India, meanwhile, is known in South Asia more for its big brotherly attitude and the lack of synergy and capacity to implement its promises.
The Chinese suggestion for an China-India-Pakistan trilateral should provide fresh impetus – if that were needed – for New Delhi to reconsider its own Pakistan policy.