India’s Response to China’s ‘one belt, one road’ Initiative

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India and China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative’, Nação e Defesa (Nation and Defense, Instituto da Defesa Nacional, Lisboa, Portugal), No. 142, pp. 56-71.

Abstract

India’s response to China’s ‘new Silk Roads’ or ‘one belt, one road’ initiative is a good example of the problems that beset the India-China relationship. Neither country has quite managed to put in the effort required to pull their bilateral ties out of the deep freeze of suspicion and distrust that came about as a result of the conflict of 1962. And with China’s economic and political rise in addition to its military build-up, doubts about Chinese intentions vis-à-vis India and its South Asian neighbourhood have grown even if India too is growing and gaining economically including through its economic relationship with China. This article examines the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative and the reasons why it creates concerns in India. It looks at India’s response and the weaknesses of that response before examining two cases of Pakistan and the Indian Ocean in the context of ‘one belt, one road’ initiative and the India-China relationship.

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China Courts the Maldives

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s Maldives Strategy: How Much of a Threat to India?’, Policy Wonks, 9 September 2015.

Indian analysts have long considered the Maldives as a potential pearl in the ‘string of pearls’ strategy that they believed China is engaged in. There was even a name for the specific island in the Maldives – Marao – which saner minds however, have dismissed as a figment of the imagination. Nevertheless, all the concern about the Maldives falling into the Chinese embrace was not enough to generate a coherent Indian policy towards the island nation with policy even held hostage by private Indian entrepreneurial interests. While it is true that the Maldives’ domestic political dynamics – political contestation as well as the gradual rise of Islamist forces – left New Delhi in a vulnerable and sticky situation, China has used the same interregnum to ramp up its ties across a range of issues.

Upswing in China-Maldives TiesRead More »

China’s 2015 Defence White Paper: Military Strategy Meets Foreign Policy

Originally published as ‘With China’s Growing Regional Interests, a New Strategy of “Active Defence”’, The Wire, 28 May 2015.

China’s latest defence White Paper (WP) – its ninth – has only confirmed trends that have been evident for some time. Themed “China’s Military Strategy”, it is a sign of China’s greater confidence if not always of transparency delivered in language that is a mix of boilerplate, rhetoric and accusations against unnamed countries. That said, there is clearly a desire to communicate better to the United States and other potential rivals what China’s intentions and red lines are.Read More »

Expectations from the Modi Visit to China

This article was originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Is it wise for India to stay out of Silk Road initiative?’, South Asia Monitor, 12 May 2015, before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China.

Of the predictions that came true, more sister-province/state and sister-city agreements, announcement of a new visa arrangement, an India-China Think-tank Forum.

 

It is now slowly but increasingly evident to Indians across the board that China, their largest neighbour, will likely be their most important foreign policy challenge for decades to come. Gradually but surely, China will come to occupy regular attention in India across a range of fields from geopolitics to scientific research and development to political and ideological creativity. In this context, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to China and the media coverage it will generate will be an important milestone in how Indians perceive and understand China.

Possible Outcomes

Modi has gained a reputation for extreme secrecy and last minute ‘deals’ during visits abroad. China, however, will not be such an easy place to do this. Unless, of course, CPC General Secretary and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is willing to play ball. This however, is unlikely, given the Chinese self-image of being in a league of just two, contending with the US for regional and global domination while everybody else is for all practical purposes, and despite any rhetoric to the contrary, slotted into lower tiers of importance.

What then are the possible agreements that the two sides might reach during the Modi visit?Read More »

China’s New Silk Roads: Reinterpreting History

Originally published as ‘Pothole potential on China’s silk roads’, Asia Times Online, 13 March 2015.

Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Silk Road Economic Belt (sichouzhilu jingjidai, 丝绸之路经济带) in a speech on 7 September 2013 at the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan[1] and the Maritime Silk Road (haishang sichouzhilu, 海上丝绸之路) during his visit to Indonesia, the following month.[2] The two initiatives – collectively termed the ‘one belt, one road’ (yidai yilu, 一带一路) initiative – taken together with his declaration of a new neighbourhood policy in October 2013 at the first work forum (zuotan, 座谈) on diplomacy towards China’s periphery(zhoubian, 周边),[3] constitute a major Chinese foreign policy initiative. It is designed not just to increase China’s influence but also to put forward a new way of doing business, different from the Western/American approaches and tries also to assuage fears of an impending Chinese regional and global hegemony.

Read More »

Divide and Rule: China Woos Southeast Asia

At the 17th China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in November 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for the formulation of a Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity (2016-2020)[1] to ensure good neighbourly relations. A Global Times commentary has pointed out that while the Chairman’s Statement of the 24th ASEAN Summit on the South China Sea disputes ‘expressed serious concerns over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea’, the statement at the 25th Summit that concluded in Naypyitaw on 13 November, only mentioned that it was ‘concerned over the situation in the South China Sea’.[2] Clearly, the Chinese are working on the ASEAN members to moderate their views on the seriousness of the impact of the South China Sea disputes, and by extension, China’s actions, on regional stability.Read More »