What does India think of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative?

Jabin T. Jacob, ‘What does India think of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative?’, ICS Occasional Paper, No. 19, December 2017.  

Abstract

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious regional and global project that it has attempted to sell as a global public good. One country where the Chinese project has met clear, consistent and widespread opposition at both the official level and among strategic analysts, is India. As important a factor that a sometimes reflexive Indian opposition to things Chinese is, there are also big contradictions and wide loopholes in Chinese arguments and justifications for the BRI that deserve to be highlighted. This paper examines Chinese arguments in so far as they relate to India but the weaknesses of these arguments are also germane to other countries that have joined or are seeking to join the BRI.

Advertisements

Panama Switches Diplomatic Recognition from Taiwan to China

Taiwan has lost yet another member of the small group of countries that recognize it diplomatically with Panama in Central America making the move to build ties with the PRC instead. The last country to switch ties was São Tomé and Príncipe in December 2016. Before that it was Gambia at the beginning of the previous year. But in between it must also be recalled that there was the move in Nigeria to get the Taiwan representation to move from Abuja, the capital, to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, an attempt to curtail whatever limited diplomatic privileges that the Taiwanese enjoyed in practice there. Taiwan is now down to just 20 countries recognizing it officially.[1]

With the latest action, there can be no doubt that China under Xi Jinping is engaged in a long-term but steady strategy of trying to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and constrain its international space. Beijing is declaring in unequivocal terms that it does not believe that it can reach any form of accommodation with Tsai Ing-wen’s pro-Taiwanese independence Democratic Progressive Party-led government and that its patience to wait for reunification is diminishing. Read more

Tsai Ing-wen’s Visit to Central America

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Central America from 7-15 January 2017 came amidst the tensions set off by US President-elect Donald Trump publicly tweeting about his phone conversation with her soon after his election. Over time, Trump’s tweets on China have gotten ever more provocative, and questions are now being raised about his administration’s willingness to adhere to the one-China policy, which the Chinese have called the fundamental basis of US-China relations, never mind the fact that in reality China has also never supported the one-China policy as the Americans themselves interpret it which is of Taiwan joining the PRC only with the free will of the people of Taiwan themselves. China insists on maintaining the threat of the use of force if the decision of the Taiwanese does not go its way.

Against this backdrop, Tsai’s visit to four of the dwindling flock of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies came under more than the usual international scrutiny. The visits to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador were part of Tsai’s only second overseas trip after taking office in May 2016; her visits to Panama and Paraguay in June last year went comparatively unremarked by the international press. Read more

The 8th BRICS Summit: India Hosts, China Gains

The 8th BRICS Summit in Goa in October this year, India came close on the heels of the G-20 Summit at Hangzhou in China and appears more or less to have had the same agenda except that it was smaller in size and therefore brought into sharper focus the contradictions within. The BRICS grouping remains an unbalanced one. China is in a league of its own in the BRICS – both in economic terms as well as increasingly in the political sphere. India is the only other member that has a strong economy – the other three economies are in various stages of stress. However, the grouping is also about taking political positions and here once again, China’s dominant weight has seen statements taking on anti-Western tilt. Read more

India, the NSG and China: Time to Move Away from the Blame Game

As India’s application to membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) comes up for renewed discussion at a consultative meeting in Vienna later this November, several questions about China’s possible response remain.

The Indian argument for putting effort into the pursuit of NSG membership is that this ‘would place our existing cooperation on a predictable basis and facilitate the enhanced investments, industrial tie ups and technology access required to accelerate augmentation of nuclear power capacity in India’.[1]

Targetting China

Justified as this may be, this is an argument that however, holds less sway in public perception than the one about China being the only country that stands in the way of India’s aspirations. Read more

China’s Conference Diplomacy: Lessons for India

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s Conference Diplomacy’, Organiser, Vol. 66, No. 26, 28 December 2014, pp. 40-41.

In a roughly 30-day period beginning late October 2014, China hosted a major international military dialogue called the Xiangshan Forum, the World Internet Conference, the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan, a UN meeting on the role of geospatial information in promoting sustainable development as well as an international conference each on humanitarian rules governing military operations and anti-hijacking. In addition, the Chinese government offered to host an informal defence ministers’ conference of all ASEAN countries in 2015, and has been designated host of the G20 summit in 2016. Together these give us a sample of the literally hundreds of meetings of international organizations and associations that China hosts round the year in addition to normal bilateral diplomatic meetings. Add to these, are the regular conferences that China has begun organizing on its new Silk Road initiatives all across the country where dozens of participants from Asia and around the world participate.

Read more

Li Keqiang’s India Visit: Towards Realistic Expectations

(The English version was written on the first day of the Chinese Premier’s visit to India and updated and published originally as जबिन टी. जैकब, ‘भरोसा बढ़ाने वाली भेंट’, Dainik Jagran, 22 May 2013, p. 10 (see below).)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is in India on his first overseas visit since taking over his new position in March. The visit is notable for a number of reasons.

One, it came against the backdrop of the recent Chinese ‘incursion’ in the Ladakh region and the resultant stand-off that lasted three weeks. As a result, the mood could have be decidedly indifferent if not unfriendly in terms of the public reception of Li in India.

In the case of high-level visits, however, no matter what the problems and complications in a bilateral relationship, it is always important from a diplomatic point of view to make sure the atmospherics are excellent and that warmth and enthusiasm are on full display. Read more

Rising India’s Foreign Policy: A Partial Introduction

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, “Rising India’s Foreign Policy: A Partial Introduction,” in D. Suba Chandran and Jabin T. Jacob (eds.), India’s Foreign Policy: Old Problems, New Challenges (New Delhi: Macmillan, 2011): 1-22.


Current Indian foreign policy is informed by a realization that a combination of economic reforms and the end of the Cold War has steered India into a position of some considerable influence in the post-9/11 world. This is influence of a kind that India did not have in the years following Independence. What India had then was a moral standing which it could make little use of, boxed in as it was by the contingencies of a Cold War division of the world. This division allowed very little leeway for the Indian policy of non-alignment, which ended up being not so much an alternative as a means of holding the line, until India could find itself in a more favourable geopolitical situation. Further, unlike in the post-Independence phase, India today often appears reluctant to exercise what influence it has outside South Asia and sometimes even within the region, keenly aware of the several continuing limits on its capabilities and having suffered from blowback on the few occasions it did, as was the case most tragically, in the assassination of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Even as some old problems continue to keep India off-balance in international affairs, notably the issue of Kashmir, the world has also not stood still and new problems – both traditional and non-traditional – have emerged that have required India to step up and take a position on. These have included the fall of the monarchy and the ascension of the Maoists in Nepal in the immediate neighbourhood, the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme in the extended neighbourhood, and issues of global import such as climate change. And all this, even as the Indian foreign policy establishment remains woefully ill-equipped and understaffed to meet these challenges. What then are the patterns of Indian foreign policy behavior in the new century?

Read more