One belt one road will change globe

Geopo­lit­i­cal notes notes from from In­dia In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - M D Nala­pat

sta­tus was first recog­nised by the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, who spoke of a G-2 com­pris­ing China and the US that would act in con­cert to en­sure global sta­bil­ity. Of course, the prob­lem with Bill Clin­ton was that he saw a “fair” deal as a trans­ac­tion where his side got 90% of the ben­e­fits and the other had to be con­tent with the re­main­ing 10%. A wiser Pres­i­dent of the US would have, for ex­am­ple, en­sured that Rus­sia af­ter the 1992 col­lapse of the USSR would have been ac­com­mo­dated with re­spect within the in­ter­na­tional ma­trix of author­ity rather than sought to be pushed to the fringe with the as­sis­tance of the mafia el­e­ments sur­round­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Boris Yeltsin. It was Clin­ton’s un­wise diplo­macy that saw Moscow fi­nally be­lieve that there was no way that it would get the hon­our its size and the ver­sa­til­ity of Rus­sian peo­ple de­served, and carve out an in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy dur­ing sec­ond term of Vladimir Putin, eas­ily most ef­fec­tive leader that his peo­ple have seen since 1945.

In­ter­est­ingly, a G-2 has in­deed evolved in the in­ter­na­tional arena, but this is the en­tente be­tween Bei­jing and Moscow. Both Xi Jin­ping as well as Vladimir Putin have to­gether be­come a global force that has both the will as well as the ca­pac­ity to challenge the abil­ity of the NATO mem­ber states to force other coun­tries to their will. The suc­ces­sive de­feats of NATO, even against rag­tag forces such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, have com­bined with the 2008 fi­nan­cial crash to cre­ate a world or­der in which, within a few more years at the same pace, there will be equal­ity of sta­tus be­tween the NATO pow­ers and the MoscowBei­jing G-2 fash­ioned by Xi and Putin

This colum­nist is in Xin­ing, in Qing­hai prov­ince, which bor­ders Ti­bet. Just two decades ago, this was a Email: mg­nala­pat@gmail.com back­wa­ter, but is to­day a large city bustling with ac­tiv­ity. The en­tire re­gion, which was once largely ig­nored dur­ing the pe­riod in of­fice of Jiang Zemin (who had time only for the east coast of the PRC and its string com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial base), has be­come a hub of ac­tiv­ity. This “Look West” pol­icy was in­tro­duced by Hu Jin­tao who was Pres­i­dent for the decade be­fore Xi took over in 2013,and is be­ing strength­ened by the new el­der­ship of the CCP. The most am­bi­tious project since build­ing of Great Wall of China has been One Belt One Road (OBOR) project mas­ter­minded by Xi Jin­ping, and this will link Asia with Europe through a net­work of high­ways and other com­mu­ni­ca­tion links built and fi­nanced by China.

Should Rus­sia and South and South­east Asia be fully brought within the am­bit of the OBOR net­work, it would al­ter the eco­nomics of the re­gion and cre­ate con­di­tions for a com­mon mar­ket. Those who are scep­ti­cal of the com­ple­tion of such a mas­sive project need to ex­am­ine what is tak­ing place in the west of China, where a net­work of roads and rail has been built across ter­ri­tory ev­ery vi­tas for­bid­ding as that seen in any of the lo­ca­tions where OBOR is meant to reach. Xin­ing has a mod­ern air­port with dozens of daily flights, as well as a rail ter­mi­nus from where the train to Lhasa can be boarded. In­ci­den­tally, this takes four days to reach its des­ti­na­tion from Bei­jing, and passes in its fi­nal stages through some of the most beau­ti­ful land­scapes in the coun­try. Qing­hai has changed and so has Ti­bet, be­cause of the eco­nomic changes that are be­ing caused by the ex­pan­sion in in­fra­struc­ture that has been the re­sult of decades of work, and which are be­ing ac­cel­er­ated by Pres­i­dent Xi

Al­though Wash­ing­ton is un­happy with the OBOR project, the re­al­ity is that the po­ten­tial up­side in terns of faster growth that it brings makes it very dif­fi­cult to refuse for coun­tries that are on the pro­posed routes. In the fu­ture, there may be other routes as well, lead­ing both north­wards and south­wards from China, and over­all the im­pact will be an in­te­gra­tion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity that would make the OBOR re­gion a gi­gan­tic com­mon mar­ket. In its ap­proach to­wards the Asian In­fra­struc­ture Bank and other mul­ti­lat­eral ini­tia­tives that have been ini­ti­ated dur­ing Xi’s time, Bei­jing has been care­ful to not in­sist on the veto pow­ers and the dom­i­na­tion that the US has in the past in­sisted on in in­sti­tu­tions where it is a par­tic­i­pant. This has changed only un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, who has ac­cepted that his coun­try can no longer be the ful­crum of the globe bit only one among its nu­mer­ous poles. Obama has shown great wis­dom in his sec­ond term in of­fice, al­though at cost of sup­port of those who have for decades been ac­cus­tomed to a geopo­lit­i­cal con­trol that is no longer pos­si­ble.

The point about any ne­go­ti­a­tion is to know how much to de­mand and where to stop. In its in­ter­ven­tions, the prob­lem with NATO has been that it has not stopped where it ought to have, but has kept on seek­ing to swal­low more than can be di­gested, and this fault has been ev­i­dent es­pe­cially dur­ing the terns in of­fice of George W Bush and Tony Blair, who con­se­quently did great dam­age to the in­ter­ests of their coun­tries and those other pow­ers that trusted their poli­cies. It is these mis­takes that have re­sulted in rise of Bei­jing-Moscow en­tente. Once One Belt One Road ap­proaches its full po­ten­tial, in­clud­ing with cor­ri­dors to Rus­sia, world will change, and this dur­ing re­main­ing years in of­fice of Pres­i­dent Jin­ping. —The writer is Vice-Chair, Ma­ni­pal Ad­vanced Re­search Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Pro­fes­sor of Geopol­i­tics, Ma­ni­pal Univer­sity, Haryana State, In­dia.

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