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Road Policy- how it may harm India??

India was from the outset, very keen to build a trustworthy relationship with China, with whom it shares its boundaries in the North East Frontier, present Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Jammu Kashmir. The Indian government, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru was very supportive of China being admitted to the UN Security Council as a permanent member. But this friendship got a blow when India decided to give asylum to the Dalai Lama of Tibet when a big revolt broke out there. Further, the Chinese aggression in 1962 made the situation worse. Both countries have never been able to reach a consensus on the border issues.

Recently, the announcement of the new One Belt One Roadpolicy by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has seen India raising eyebrows. China has stated that the Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive platform to explore trading options on the historic Silk Route. OBOR is an ambitious China's ambitious development strategy that aims at boosting its connectivity and spread its trade to far parts of Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe. It is a major step to further its role as an important player in the global affairs, especially in South and South East Asia. It lays emphasis on land and maritime connectivity, establishing well- linked roads and sea routes. It is a part of a larger plan of Economic diplomacy pursued by China to attain higher domestic growth.

The primary cause of worry for India is that the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a part of the OBOR passes through the Gilgit- Baltistan that India considers to be its territory. India has categorically stated that connectivity projects must "respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of the countries through which the project passes. The decision taken by Delhi to stay aloof from the meetings held in May, regarding the new policy of OBOR is also an indication of India's distrust in the issue. Although India has skipped the initiative, six of its neighbours, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have been signatories to the project. This may have serious implications with respect to India's relations with its neighbours.

India has been maintaining cordial relations with all the neighbouring countries except China and Pakistan. And, this comes at a time when there are speculations about China and Pakistan conspiring to surround India on all sides, through strategic and economic diplomacy. The other neighbours, being a signatory to the project, are at a risk of souring the ties with India. Again, India being a strong advocate of Non Alignment, looks at this initiative with suspicion. India believes that China is trying to create a power bloc, as opposed to the US. Before Trump became the President, New Delhi was sure of the support from Washington, but now, India is sceptical of the supportive role that the US can play to prevent the rise of China to a major power bloc in the East.

Given India's porous borders with China and Pakistan, there is a greater risk to cross border terrorism than now. Since the China Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through the disputed territory, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which India claims to be an integral part of India, it may be even easier for terrorists trained by the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau ISI, to infiltrate into India, thus worsening the present condition. This is a major infringement to the sovereignty of India. The enhancement of infrastructural facilities on the other side of the border may make it easier to attack India, from all sides, since all the neighbours are a signatory to the project. This puts India at a disadvantage as its border roads do not have the sophistication to match theirs.

This regional geopolitics is one major reason why India has stayed away from this gigantic initiative. India, along with Japan is planning to counter the Chinese strategy by signing infrastructural and capacity building projects. Japan is expected to join India in expanding Iran's Chabahar port and its adjoining Special Economic Zone. In Sri Lanka too, these two countries will, in a joint venture, work to expand the strategically located Trincomalee port. It is aimed at stabilising the region amid Chinese designs on it that have led to a discomfiture in certain capitals. As China aims to extend its influence throughout Asia, the other two superpowers in the continent have also jumped into the ring to assert their power in the region. China's military and political ambition is one of the main driving force for this initiative

- R. Malavika

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