The ongoing border dispute between India and China combined with the hyper-nationalist and religiously sectarian Hindutva politics of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have led India to try and reinvent the wheel or more specifically, reinvented the road on which the wheels turn.
China’s One Belt–One Road seeks to build infrastructure and implement harmonious political agreements between the nations of East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, Eurasia, The Middle East, Africa and Europe, in order to create the world’s largest modern network of land and sea trade.
India is of course a major point along One Belt–One Road, but India’s ruling politicians seem hell-bent on cheating the Indian economy and future generations of Indians out of the opportunity China has presented the world which many other countries including Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Philippines and Iran have taken.
Instead, India has begun vigorously promoting its own smaller (much smaller in fact) version of One Belt–One Road. The plan which is partly built, is creatively called the North-South corridor, which seeks to link India, Iran, the South Caucasus and Russia via railway corridors.
According to Iranian political analyst Pir Mohammad Mollazehi,
“What makes the North-South corridor so important is that it would bring transportation costs and travel time down by 30 percent. It is with these considerations in mind that Iran, Russia and India are now discussing the use of the Chabahar or Bender Abbas ports to bring cargoes to the Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea”.
The problem with the North-South corridor is not that it is a bad idea but that it is an incomplete idea, a mere parcel which is dwarfed by One Belt–One Road which will in one form or another, connect all of the countries in question while also linking the aforementioned trade hubs to the wider world including those in East Asia and the western frontiers of Eurasia, as well as maritime routes linking the Asian and African sides of the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
As with many of the self-styled ‘big ideas’ coming out of Modi’s India, the problem is not so much that the ideas are bad but rather that the ‘big ideas’ are rather quite limited and limiting. While China’s One Belt–One Road is literally a global land and sea super-highway, India’s North-South corridor is by comparison a small, however important roundabout.
This is proof positive that India would only benefit by linking its own ambitious infrastructure and trade projects with the larger one being built by China and her partners. In a competition between a set of important regions and the wider world, the latter will always be more vital and more attractive to potential partners.
This is why if India cooperated with China, India could make the most of its own ambitions while reaping the benefits afforded to all nations, but particularly to large nations which are part of One Belt–One Road.
If India insists on sitting out of One Belt–One Road, the road will simply circumvent India via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, thus affording increased benefits to India’s regional rival that could otherwise be distributed across South Asia.
India is only selling itself short by trying to sell the world an alternative to One Belt–One Road. In this sense, One Belt–One Road can function without India, but India cannot function at its optimum potential outside of One Belt–One Road.
China continues to call for cooperation with India. The following video gives an insight into the cooperation driven Chinese view of recent events and how in particular, China correct understands that it is western meddling which feeds the flames of Indian chauvinism.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 3, 2017