The Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), is the global infrastructure brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping and is the centrepiece of his foreign policy. Under it, Beijing has invested about $843 billion in nearly 163 countries.
However, as China faces increasing economic challenges at home and abroad, this initiative is declining significantly. Not only is China reducing pouring money into it, but also several countries like Bolivia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, etc., are pulling themselves out of this Chinese debt trap. At the same time, India is taking on China through several infrastructure projects, the latest being connectivity to the Mediterranean.
Connectivity from India to the Mediterranean via the Gulf
United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invited foreign ministers of India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt for the 12th Sir Bani Yas Forum to be held in Dubai next month. It will discuss plans for establishing connectivity from India to the Mediterranean region via the Gulf.
Israel has been increasingly viewing China with suspicion due to growing bonhomie between the Chinese Communist Party and Palestine’s Hamas as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. At the same time, China’s backing to Turkey is adding to the unease among the Arab countries like Saudi, UAE, Egypt, as also Greece and Cyprus. Erdogan’s Ottoman Empire dream poses a challenge to the national security of these nations, and consequently, they feel threatened. Thus the proposed connectivity is seen as a counter to China, Turkey, Hamas and their proxies in the MENA region.
Other Infrastructure Initiatives involving India
India is already a key member of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that is working to connect India to Europe via Iran and Russia. INSTC is looked upon as a project that will augment the importance of Iran’s Chabahar Port, which is being developed mainly by India.
Likewise, in the east, India is focussing on projects like the ‘Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project’ connecting India’s Kolkata port with Myanmar’s Sittwe seaport. Interestingly, Sittwe is also referred to as ‘Chabahar of the East’. Besides, there is the ‘India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway,’ which is considered an extension of the Kaladan project. Fears had emerged about the possible derailment of these projects under Chinese influence after the Myanmar coup. However, India Army’s Assam Rifles has recently said that the Kaladan Project is on a fast track without issues.
Besides, Indian projects in Africa, Latin America, Nepal, Sri Lanka, etc., are receiving high appreciation.
China’s plans as debt traps, while India’s projects as an intent to build cooperation based on local priorities and human resources have been revealed to most countries of the world and their people. Thus by its very nature and also in a planned manner, India is gradually countering China’s Belt & Road Initiative through projects that are boosting Indian soft power globally.