What is China’s ‘One Belt One Road’? And Why Is India Upset?

Here’s why China’s project is a problem for India.

3 min read

In the ancient days, China, and much of East Asia, was connected to the rest of the world through a route that got its name from China’s biggest export – silk. Today, the country is looking to rebuild a route that will connect Asia, Africa and Europe – a new Silk Road.

The One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative will include roads, railways and ports and seems like a natural step for the world’s biggest trading country. After all, Asian Development Bank has said that the region, which is home to 60 percent of the world’s population, requires over $26 trillion in investment by 2030 to keep economies growing.

But the rest of the world – especially India – isn’t very happy about a project that it sees as not simply an economic initiative but as a means to push political influence and change status quo in some places. Kashmir, for example.


What is OBOR?

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s baby, the One Belt One Road was announced in 2013. Since then projects have been launched in various countries like Tajikistan, Thailand, Kenya and Vietnam financed by Chinese loans.

While some countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan are keen on OBOR, countries like India and Indonesia are wary because of the shift in status quo that this project could cause in sensitive areas like Kashmir and the South China Sea.

Chinese officials, however, reject the suggestion that the OBOR is a power play.

“The Chinese government has never wished to control any other country’s government,” a Cabinet official, Oi Xiaoli, told The AP. “We feel in contacts between countries, we need to talk about studying benefits, studying mutual profit.”

But Why’s India Worried?

As part of the OBOR, in Pakistan, there is a proposed $1.3 billion effort to expand the Karakoram Highway as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Now this involves power plants, roads and railways that will span the length of Pakistan and link China’s western region of Xinjiang to the Gwadar port, which was built with Chinese help.

But the CPEC runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The establishment of a project with China in the disputed territory gives Pakistan’s occupation of the area a degree of legitimacy. And India’s clear stand on the issue is that Pakistan is illegally occupying Indian territory. Getting on board OBOR or talking to China and Pakistan about CPEC would be problematic for India as it could be seen as conceding ground to Pakistan. It would also involve a third country which goes against India’s stand that this is a bilateral issue which needs to be worked out between the two neighbours.

China held a conference centred around OBOR in Beijing and heads of states, governments and representatives from 29 countries and international organisations were present, including the US, Russia and the IMF. India stayed away from it but the global representation definitely legitimised the initiative.


Who Said What at the OBOR Conference?

Poverty, social chaos... the development level of countries and regions – all this creates a breeding ground for international terrorism, extremism as well as irregular migration. We shall not be able to live up to these challenges should we fail to overcome the stagnation of the global economic development.
Vladimir Putin, President, Russia
It is in our shared interest to show that the global economy can serve all the world’s people.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations
“Peace and development go hand in hand. ‘One Belt, One Road’ signifies that geo-economics must take precedence over geopolitics and that the centre of gravity should shift from conflict to cooperation. We see it as a path for overcoming terrorism and extremism,” said Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister, Pakistan
This is going to be the kind of initiative that will put an end to terrorism.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President, Turkey
I know the United States has been among those countries apparently most skeptical of the ‘Belt and Road’. Simply put, the more China can demonstrate that the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is open to outside participation in this way, the more it will be embraced by global and even American firms and suppliers.
Henry Paulson, Former Treasury Secretary, United States of America

(With inputs from AP).

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