Today we are going to discuss One Belt One Road Initiative of China. It is very important for aspirants of defence exams and other competitive exams as many times in the interview the candidate is asked about his opinion. Also, as this topic remains in news, many questions of geography can be asked from it.
One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR)
Introduction- what is this project all about?
This project was launched by President Xi Jinping, in the year 2013. He called for the building of a silk road economic belt, which was named as the One Belt One Road (OBOR). From its structure, it was touted as one of the biggest developmental plans of the 21st century.
It is a strategy to connect Asia with central Asia, Europe, and the countries around the Indopacific region. With this project, China aims at enhancing its soft maritime infrastructure. This includes the formation of new ports, creating SEZs, facilitating E-commerce, and creating trade policies. The geography that it covers makes it comparable to the Silk route that existed around 120 BCE. It can be seen as a multilateral economic regime which connects China to the rest of the world.
Background of OBOR
The One Belt One Road initiative is based on the original silk route that was traversed by Admiral Zheng in the fifteenth century. These network of routes was among a variety of land and sea routes. Silk, spices, grains, precious stones were some of the important items traded. It’s important to note that the silk route was not just a means to trade but it had a wide exchange of cultures. The route also became a seat for the exchange of religious ideas. Trade of spices was mainly with India. In the year 2013, the Silk Route Economic was introduced, a repackaging of the erstwhile silk route. It was established in a joint effort by the Ministry of Commerce Ministry of foreign affairs and National Development and Reform Commission It is based on the logic of using China's huge economic leverage abroad and exporting its strong infrastructure developmental capabilities to other sectors. If carried out on a full stage, the project will have a lifespan of at least 30 to 40 years.
Features of OBOR
The initiative of OBOR is divided into two parts:
- The 'Belt' refers to the land-based ' Silk Road Economic Belt. ' It will link China to Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe.
- The 'Road' refers to the maritime ' 21st Century Silk Road. ' It will link South - East Asia, Africa, and Central Asia to China.
There are 6 economic corridors and 1 maritime road are decided under this initiative:
- Eurasian Land Bridge (Connecting Western China with Western Russia)'
- China - Mongolia - Russia (Connecting Northern China with Eastern part of Russia via Mongolia)
- China - Central Asia and West Asia Corridor (Connecting West China with Turkey via West Asia)
- China - Indochina (Connecting South China with Singapore)
- Bangladesh - China - India - Myanmar (connecting China with Myanmar)
- China - Pakistan- Economic Corridor (Connecting China with Pakistan)
- Maritime Sea route (Connecting the South China Sea with the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean)
Additionally, Russia and China have mutually agreed to develop an Ice Silk Road connecting China with Europe via the North Sea in the Arctic Ocean.
Trade links and infrastructure
- OBOR, through its plan, will link three major continents- Asia, Europe, and Africa. This project will make the entire Indopacific region more Sino-centric.
- There is a China- central Asia- west Asia corridor to be constructed will run from Western China to Turkey.
- The one belt strategy will integrate with Central Asia through Kazakhstan’s Nurly Zol infrastructure programme.
- The Vientiane- bot (Laos) will be China’s first overseas railway project that will be directly connected to China's railway network.
- China- Indochina peninsula is being constructed. This corridor will run from southern China to Singapore.
- The main idea of the project is to connect China with the rest of the world. It will open up markers and reconstruct global trends, especially since South Asia is the least connected region in the world.
- It is not a treaty-based system. Even though bilateral trade agreements may be necessary for the operation of trans border trade and infrastructure, formal membership is not required.
- The China Pakistan Economic corridor is intended to connect China’s far west with the port of Baluchistan via a network of pipelines, railways, and highways. This will enable China to transport energy goods such as petroleum through a route in Pakistan. MOUs worth nearly 46 billion has been signed as a part of this.
- During the Chinese president’s visit to the Maldives, 24 billion USD worth of projects regarding construction of projects were sanctioned.
- Institutional leaders in the west are keen to fund the project, given the lucrative rates of interest they have been promised. China also plans to have free trade agreements with 65 countries in the six economic belts, accounting for 30 percent of the GDP.
Analysis of China’s decision
The unilateral decision by China to initiate the project as well as a lack of transparency in involving other countries in the decision making and shows a lack of sincerity in forging unity between the countries. Moreover, Implementation of this project also has many hurdles. Being a project of such a huge magnitude, severe problems such as cooperation between countries will be prevalent.
India’s stance on OBOR
First and foremost, it has to be noted that India so far has not taken a position on the OBOR project. The most pressing of India’s concerns is the CPEC corridor of China- Pakistan, which passes through POK, an area of conflict for India.
What are the options India has?
- If India does decide to participate in the project, it will help India’s border to develop better infrastructure. Improved connectivity with close neighbors will also be fulfilled.
- However, India can take steps for connectivity on its own. We have project Mausam, an initiative to reconnect and re-establish communication links between countries of the Indian Ocean and enhancing their cultural values.
- The Chabahar port project is another such initiative. This gives India access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Europe, bypassing Pakistan completely. This is a connectivity solution for India in Central Asia. If India does choose to participate actively in there will be a huge advantage in terms of infrastructure and trade.
- We are also rapidly increasing the pace of developing new ports as well as renovating the new ones under Sagarmala Project.
In conclusion, it can be stated that it’s reasonable to keep the doors of engagement open and carve out a niche for itself, in a manner that is perhaps mutually beneficial.
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