China’s BRI plan 'win­ning propo­si­tion' for In­dia, says In­dian me­dia baron Bahl

for In­dia, says In­dian me­dia baron Bahl

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Su­bir Bhaumik

Anew book 'Su­per Cen­tury' by In­dia's me­dia baron and Si­nol­o­gist Raghav Bahl rec­om­mends his coun­try should join China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) or BRI plan.

'Su­per Cen­tury' is not just a long list of pol­icy pre­scrip­tions for In­dian lead­er­ship to ex­ploit the coun­try's many po­ten­tial - it also pro­vides a roadmap to po­si­tion In­dia in con­tem­po­rary Asia and the world.

"Bei­jing's OBOR initiative, de­signed to boost Chi­nese trade and cul­tural ties with Eura­sia, is a win­ning propo­si­tion for In­dia as well. Delhi has been far more cir­cum­spect, wary of Chi­nese mo­tives, " says Bahl .

He ad­mits that the China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) , one of the key OBOR routes, is a mat­ter of some con­cern be­cause it passes through Pak­istan-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir, which In­dia claims.

But Bahl ar­gues that a pro­vi­sion in the char­ter of the Asia In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB), which

pro­vides OBOR fund­ing, has par­tially ad­dressed it be­cause a clause in it re­quires all ri­val claimants to ap­prove any project slated for de­vel­op­ment in dis­puted ter­ri­tory.

"Be­sides, Bei­jing has in­di­cated it is open to mak­ing some con­ces­sions in ex­change for In­dia's par­tic­i­pa­tion, which would give the initiative a big boost," says Bahl , who says In­dia should treat China as a 'fren­emy' : "em­brace when pos­si­ble, ig­nore when pru­dent and fight back only when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary."

"Es­tab­lish­ing an al­liance with the US does not mean we have to turn our backs on China. On the con­trary, the aim of multi-align­ment is to ex­plore ar­eas of com­mon in­ter­est with a va­ri­ety of part­ners, rather than com­mit to just one or none," says Bahl, adding, "In any case, we could not dis­en­gage from China even if we wanted to do."

Bahl, whose pre­vi­ous book com­pared China's and In­dia's growth tra­jec­to­ries, says that the re­la­tions be­tween two gi­ant Asian neigh­bours have 'deep­ened and ma­tured'.

"Top-level di­plo­matic ex­changes have be­come rou­tine, in­clud­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and PM Naren­dra Modi, who share a mu­tual if guarded re­spect. The Chi­nese leader has shown a wary ad­mi­ra­tion for his In­dian coun­ter­part, be­cause of Modi's as­sertive but trans­par­ent ap­proach to for­eign pol­icy," says Bahl.

He ar­gues that China is keen to wean In­dia away from the US em­brace be­cause it is wor­ried about a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary group­ing , if not a NATO-type al­liance in­volv­ing US, In­dia, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia which other ASEAN coun­ties, wary of an as­sertive China, may join in. Se­condly, China is keen on greater ac­cess to the large In­dian mar­ket to make up for loss of markets in the West, es­pe­cially the US. Bahl says In­dia and China see eye to eye on a num­ber of is­sues.

" As re­cently emerged economies far from the cen­tres of West­ern power, In­dia and China share a ba­sic dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the Bret­ton Woods in­sti­tu­tions that have shaped global economies since the end of World War 2. That has led to cre­at­ing such al­ter­na­tives as the AIIB and the BRICS New De­vel­op­ment Bank , which foster sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in emerg­ing coun­tries," says Bahl. He says "our most im­por­tant area of con­ver­gence is eco­nomic."

"China's slow­down has strength­ened those ties with In­dia be­com­ing not only a con­ve­nient out­let for the glut of steel, ce­ment and the like , but also an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive for ner­vous main­land in­vestors ," says Bahl, re­count­ing that there has­been six fold in­crease in Chi­nese in­vest­ment in In­dia in 2015 alone.

"And that's just the be­gin­ning as new agree­ments are paving the way for greater col­lab­o­ra­tion on such ventures as high-speed rail lines, smart cities, and joint technology parks," says Bahl, sug­gest­ing In­dia should se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing the Chi­nese pro­posal to re­name the CPEC and cre­ate an al­ter­na­tive cor­ri­dor through Jammu & Kash­mir , Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with In­dia's OBOR con­cerns.

" OBOR pro­vides an­other opportunit­y for In­dian lead­er­ship ,as well as ac­cess to a flood of Chi­nese cap­i­tal . Without OBOR , we risk grow­ing stag­nant and iso­lated in an in­creas­ingly con­nected Asia ; with it In­dia can over­haul its woe­ful in­fra­struc­ture , cre­ate jobs and ex­plore votal new trade ventures in China and South Asia," writes Bahl.

He en­dorses diplo­mat Pi­nak Chakrabart­y , a for­mer In­dian high com­mis­sioner to Bangladesh, who has said that greater Chi­nese in­vest­ments and trade will dou­ble up the stakes for the Chi­nese in In­dia and they would not want to desta­bilise the re­la­tion­ship.

" This makes per­fect sense to me and un­like many In­di­ans , I am also not wor­ried over In­dia's trade deficit with China , says Bahl .

The in­fluex of cheap Chi­nese goods ben­e­fits In­dian mid­dle class con­sumers but it forces In­dian com­pa­nies to in­no­vate to stay com­pet­i­tive, ar­gues Bahl.

"In­dia can use the trade deficit with China to our na­tional ad­van­tage , us­ing it as a tool of eco­nomic diplo­macy , to ne­go­ti­ate bet­ter trade terms," he rea­sons.

Por­tuguese politi­cian and Si­nol­o­gist Bruno Ma­caes had ar­gued in his book "Belt & Road : A New Chi­nese World Or­der" that In­dia's par­tic­i­pa­tion was cru­cial for the suc­cess of the OBOR.

Many In­dian analysts have ar­gued that In­dia and China have taken united stands on is­sues like cli­mate change and could also join hands to fight the US trade of­fen­sive wjhich was af­fect­ing both.

"The US only sees In­dia as a mar­ket, mainly for weapons, and wants to play us against China without ac­tu­ally tak­ing In­dia's in­ter­est se­ri­ously. So In­dia has no real rea­son to end up as an Amer­i­can sur­ro­gate . Trump's mis­chief on Kash­mir is a glar­ing ex­am­pleof Amer­i­can per­fidy," says Ran­abir Sam­madar of the Cal­cutta Re­search Group.

Me­dia baron and Si­nol­o­gist Raghav Bahl.

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