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Dhaka Tribune

Geo-strategic isolation won’t help

India would do well to welcome China’s project for mutual prosperity

Update : 24 Jun 2018, 03:39 PM

According to Indian mainstream media, India did not endorse the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit statement (Qingdao declaration), although all remaining seven members of the SCO bloc supported the project. 

This situation may create an economic and geo-strategic isolation for India within the SCO bloc -- apparently, it is not healthy for the bloc. 

Nonetheless, India had endorsed the summit’s declaration against terror in all forms and manifestations. Even the Indian media said that Indian and Pakistani military would be trained together under the context of the SCO’s counter-terror military exercise “Peace Mission 2018.” 

Therefore, India opposed CPEC in SCO but endorsed the “Peace Mission 2018” exercise. According to the Chinese perspective, the SCO aims to resolve security issues with equal cooperation; it is not aimed at serving Chinese and Russian geo-strategic interests. 

India has been claiming that CPEC violates their sovereignty and territorial integrity, since CPEC passes through disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Azad Kashmir region, although China expressed that all territorial laws were respected and the dispute is an “internal matter” between India and Pakistan. 

India and Pakistan should mitigate the Kashmir crisis through bilateral negotiations. It is clear that the regional tension and proxy conflicts between India and Pakistan have been hampering the formation of wider connectivity projects between SCO countries and beyond. 

And this situation is well aligned with the US’s China containment policy in which the US wants total control over the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean to sustain its hegemony and deter Chinese assertion. 

Therefore, the Indian policy has a visible double standard dealing (or the so-called non-aligned strategy), although many analysts believe that the US has the stronger influence in Indian regional politics and largely in the South Asian political economy. 

Some argue that Indian diplomatic strategies are being produced by American and Israeli think-tanks. 

That US-Israeli influence in policy formation also led India to spread the minority-oppressing radical Hindutva ideology, although development and boosting employment are more needed. 

Consequently, India is now routinely experiencing communal and sectarian violence.

The rapid upsurge of Hindutva followers indicates that the country is ideologically preparing itself to challenge Chinese-styled socialism, Chinese values, and Chinese geo-economic assertion in South Asia. 

On the other hand, China has increased its South Asian diplomacy and geo-economic activities. Pakistan, the Maldives, and Nepal seem very enthusiastic regarding Chinese development and infrastructural projects in their respective countries.

Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Bangladesh are trying hard to balance between the two regional powers, even though they are being attracted by the Chinese promise of geo-economic opportunities. 

If China pushes more prospects in South Asia, India may find herself in an isolated position in the Indian Ocean region. The so-called satellite states which are still orbiting around India can jump into the Chinese orbit when the time is appropriate. Many analysts believe the transition from one orbit to another will not be smooth, since there are several tension-inducing border disputes and proxy war flashpoints (both economic and military) between India and China. 

Recently, the Quad’s senior officials from the United States, Japan, India, and Australia met in Singapore.

The Quad is notable for its concerns about growing Chinese power and influence in the region. Nonetheless, India opposes Australia’s inclusion in the Malabar naval drill. 

A recent official statement issued by India’s external affairs ministry said that India and Australia held a key meeting to discuss combating terror and its financing. Hence, India is not fully enjoying the Quad Company. 

But then again, India knows well that the US has the supremacy over China in technology, defense, and international influence. Therefore, India relies heavily on the US in order to deter the so-called “China threat.” 

India is also looking for more diplomatic and economic engagement with Russia. As a cold war ally, India had Soviet influences inside its socio-political fabric. BRICS forum and SCO are two important blocs where India sees Russia as the most important and trusted partner. Even if India is concerned about “Chinese assertion,” the country thinks that Russia can play a pacifier’s role to mitigate the tension. 

On the other hand, right now Russia considers China to be the most important and trusted partner in terms of geo-politics, geo-economics, and geo-strategies in order to shield herself from the waves of Western sanctions.

In recent years, Russia has increased its diplomatic and military relationship with Pakistan, since Russia considers her the zipper of its Eurasian integration. Therefore, the Indian general concept of getting Russian help during a Sino-Indian conflict may become wishful thinking. 

On the other hand, the US under President Donald Trump is running under a conservative economic policy in guise of a trade war. Developing the domestic economy is America’s main focus. 

The US may not provide necessary support for boosting the Indian economy, but she will entice India to buy more Western-made arms and weapons. Subsequently, such procurement will support the US and Western economy, but it will increase the volume of animosity between India and China. 

Security cooperation, economic cooperation, and cultural exchange are the three main areas where SCO is prioritizing its activities. India desperately needs the first two. She should think carefully and deprioritize dealings with the US and Western powers. 

Compatible, though disputed, India has the second-biggest border with China of 3,488km, and India cannot replace her “threatening” Chinese neighbour. It is suggested that India should not oppose the CPEC project, and she should refrain from closing the door for China-envisioned BRI. Rather, it should welcome that China-touted win-win project with necessary bargaining to make South Asia well-connected for mutual development and prosperity. 

Otherwise, India may find herself isolated from the recent trend in Eurasian geo-economics and tormented with domestic economic and political crises.

Rajeev Ahmed is a geo-political analyst and strategic thinker.

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