About Belt and Road initiative (BRI)

About Belt and Road initiative (BRI)

  • The “Belt and Road” initiative was launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • It is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. 
  • The BRI consists primarily of-
    • The Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onward to Europe.
    • The New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe.
    • Six other economic corridors have been identified to link other countries to the Belt and the Road.
    • Below is the image given for the routes mentioned above-
  • The initiative has been inspired from the concept of the Silk Road established during the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago.
  • The initiative defines five major priorities:
    • Policy coordination.
    • Infrastructure connectivity.
    • Unimpeded trade.
    • Financial integration.
    • Connecting people.
  • The programme is expected to involve over US$1 trillion in investments, largely in infrastructure development for ports, roads, railways and airports, as well as power plants and telecommunications networks.

Background

  • The “Belt and Road” initiative was launched in 2013 and since then, some 150 countries have signed Belt and Road related agreements and China is keen to further expand the initiative.
  • However, the initiative has run into some roadblocks in the past years, as the US, India, Japan and Russia with some other countries doubt the intensions of China behind this initiative.
  • Despite, the doubts China’s has maintained its official position on Belt and Road that it is solely an economic initiative with no political motives and it is trying to expand the reach of BRI further.

Summary of the news

  • For the further expansion of Belt and Road Initiative-
    • China had officially invited India to participate in the second Belt and Road Forum meet, which is scheduled to take place later this month.
    • China has also expanded the reach of its Belt and Road initiative to Latin American countries by building ports and other trade-related facilities there.
    • Moreover, now China is focusing on countries in Central America such as Panama.
  • However, India has refused to participate in the second Belt and road forum meet due to concerns over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
  • Further, Chinese expansion in Latin and Central American countries is raising alarm in the U.S.

India’s position on Belt and Road initiative

  • China was hoping that India would review its position on BRI after the improvement in India and China relations in the backdrop of Wuhan summit, held in April 2018.
  • However, India has turned down the official invite of China and also it had boycotted the first Belt and Road meet held in 2017.
  • India is not opposing to work with China on infrastructure initiatives bilaterally or multilaterally but it is refusing to participate in the BRI because of the following reasons-
    • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of BRI, passes through the disputedGilgit-Baltistan region, which undermines India’s sovereignty.
    • It wants certain international norms to be followed liketransparency, economic feasibility and also mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity to be followed.
    • India is more focused on promoting its own connectivity projects under its Act East, Go West and Neighbourhood First policies.
    • The Chinese infrastructure projects are getting controversial in several countries, including like Sri Lanka, the Maldives and even Pakistan.
    • Critics describe the BRI projects as China’s debt diplomacy and even new colonialism.
    • India fears of irresponsible debt practices and unsustainable debt burden in carrying outconnectivity initiatives.
    • India is also resisting because China has for the fourth time blocked ban on Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief MasoodAzhar.

Expansion of Belt and Road initiative in Central and Latin America

  • China has grabbed the attention of Latin and Central American countries by highlighting the benefits of Belt and Road on TV and Twitterwooing their politicians, professionals and journalists.
  • This seems to be now providing output in the form thatthese countries are joining the second Belt and Road forum summit.
  • Expansion of Belt and Road Initiative in Latin and Central America is reflected through the following-
    • China is making multibillion dollar deals for loans and investments in oil and mining in South America.
    • Venezuela has received $62 billion in Chinese loans.
    • Brazil owes $42 billion and Argentina $18 billion.
    • Ecuador has borrowed $17 billion.
    • Panama’s leaders see China as a source of trade and investment.
    • Mexican President is considering joining Belt and Road.

USA’s Concerns over expansion of BRI in Latin and Central America

  • This region has been out of the reach of other powers than America since the 19th century.
  • China is focusing on Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s busiest trade arteries and strategically important both to Washington and Beijing.
  • If Mexico joins BRI, itwould give China a foothold in a country bordering the US.
  • There are concerns about the possible effects on US firms, on regional stability and on U.S. influence in the region.
  • Most projects under BRI involve loans at commercial interest rates and moreover China is building a China-centered trade and political structure that might leavepoor countries with too much debt.
  • The U.S fears of Chinese global hegemony and also BRI could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.

Section : International Relation

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