China’s One Belt One Road Summit

OBOR is an ambitious China’s ambitious development strategy and framework that aims to boost its connectivity and trade that will that will connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. It was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. It comprises two components viz. the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

OBOR initiative is part of China’s revived 21st century Silk Road diplomacy that seeks to push it to take a bigger role in global affairs as a major global power. It is basically investment and trade promotion scheme aiming to deepen economic connections between China and rest of the world.

It is not one project but six major routes which will include several railways line, roads, ports and other infrastructure. China claims these economic corridors will not only build infrastructure in countries.

The policy is significant for China since it aims to boost domestic growth in the country. Experts have noted OBOR is also a part of China’s strategy for economic diplomacy. OBOR may well provide China an opportunity to continue its economic development, as trade routes under this program will give China access to new markets. Permanent Chinese presence in dozens of countries will give China an edge over its rivals in trading with these small countries.

One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Summit:

The two-day summit ‘Belt and Road Forum’ (BRF) was a gathering of world leaders from across the globe, organized by China to showcase its plans to build a network of trade routes under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

As of now, 68 countries and international organisations have signed belt and road agreements with China. China has stated that the Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive platform to explore and co-develop the China-led blueprint of reviving the Silk Road.

Outcomes of Summit:

The two-day Belt and Road Forum identified and agreed on 270 deliverable goals of Belt and Road Initiative.The Forum resulted in signing of a joint communique by 30 heads of state that promised to implement plans for cooperation in trade and infrastructure programs across Asia, Europe and Africa. However, the forum ended with only promises of joint action by participating countries and did not result in establishment of an institutional framework for implementing the planned construction program.

The Signatories to the joint communique also pledged their support for promoting a rules-based, open and multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core.
China has assured the participating countries that it would not attempt to push a country’s political ideologies and systems onto another country during the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.

China has taken the first step to institutionalise the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) by announcing that the next edition of the BRF would be held in Beijing in 2019 indicating that China will continue to control the Belt and Road Initiative.

India’s Response:

India has boycotted the summit owing to sovereignty concerns related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  India said, “Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

A key part of OBOR is China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a 3,000 km project connecting Pakistan’s deep-water port Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang. It passes through Gilgit-Baltistan region which lies in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. India considers PoK as its own territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. The Chinese presence in a disputed region which India claims as part of its own territory raises sovereignty concerns for India.

India also cited the potential debt burden as one of its other concerns, saying that, “connectivity initiatives must follow the principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create an unsustainable debt burden for communities.” For Example, the CPEC infrastructure projects are not coming cheap to Pakistan. Most of the Chinese money pouring into Pakistan is coming as high-interest loans.

Although India skipped the initiative, 6 of its neighbours namely Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Afghanistan attended the summit and signed 20 infrastructure deals with China at the Belt and Road Forum (BRF).

India is deeply uneasy about the strategic implications of an initiative that would dramatically increase China’s presence in neighboring countries.

Many in India believe that in addition to economics, the initiative is part of China’s expansionist policies designed to extend it economic, military and diplomatic clout across Asia, up to Europe, and beyond.

Strained relations between India and China India’s decision to skip the meeting came after a year of bilateral discord over China’s stubborn opposition to India’s entry into the NSG and a UN ban against Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar.

China, too, protested India’s decision to permit the Dalai Lama last month to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as South Tibet.

China has rejected criticism of the plan and the summit, saying the scheme is open to all, is a win-win and aimed only at promoting prosperity.

China insists that Obor is the only way to speed up the world’s slowing economies. But analysts see it as China’s economic tool aimed at spreading its influence across continents and stretching its military capabilities beyond its own borders and maritime boundaries. OBOR has become integral to Chinese foreign policy.