India refused to send any representative for a key One Belt-One Road (OBOR) forum meeting, currently taking place in Beijing.
Earlier, the Asian giant invited India to attend the two-day meeting and to join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project (a road and a sea route). Beijing claimed that it had no plan to create political alliances, saying that the mega project should be considered as ‘umbrella of trade initiatives’, some of which are already under way. According to a statement issued recently by the Chinese government, the project has been called more a ‘symbolic portrayal than factual interpretation’.
Bringing together ongoing, planned and future infra projects, the initiative includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which India opposes, and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor as well. The OBOR also includes a land route, running from inner China to southern Europe via The Netherlands, and a sea route, connecting Shanghai port with the end-point of the land-based route in Venice via India and Africa.
The Chinese government said that it would construct ports, roads, railway connections, airports, power plants, oil and gas pipelines, refineries, free trade zones in various countries under this project. Audit firm PwC has confirmed that about USD 250 billion in projects have either been built, started construction or been signed. It said that the full project would require nearly USD 5 trillion.
According to sources close to Beijing, the key belt and road projects (to be implemented under this initiative) are: Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway, Khorgos gateway, Tehran rail line and China-Pakistan highway. While the 770km Moscow-Kazan railway line is the first stretch of 7,000km high-speed railway link to Beijing, Khorgos gateway is a cargo hub on China-Kazakh border that will handle one million containers per year. Meanwhile, the Tehran rail line is the first freight train service from China that arrived in the Iranian capital in February 2016. China-Pakistan highway is currently under construction at the cost of USD 46 billion. This ‘economic corridor’ between China and Pakistan will link China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on Arabian Sea.
The Asian powerhouse is trying hard to implement the mega project in order to assert itself some more on the global stage. The main aim of the project is to stimulate trade with neighbouring countries, increase export demand for Chinese capacity (some industries reeling from domestic over-capacity) and help internationalise its currency Renminbi (that’s seen ‘significant devaluation’). Beijing has claimed that 16 of 27 Chinese provinces are covered in the vision and its implementation could take at least 30-40 years. Beijing plans to complete the project by the end of 2049 – a key milestone year when the present-day China (People’s Republic) will mark its 100th anniversary. The OBOR talks of connecting 65 countries or over half of the global population (4.4 billion) or around 30% of the global economy.
Meanwhile, the sea route is a distance away in the future, in part, because China is facing opposition from several countries over its activities in South China Sea. India is strongly opposed to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key chunk of OBOR that cuts down transport time from factories in eastern China to West Asia from 12 days to 36 hours, as it passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Questions are being raised about the security of the OPEC too, given its sneaks through Taliban territory as well. India, America, Japan, South Korea and other countries are waiting for the outcome of May 14-15 meeting in Beijing.