From K J M Varma Beijing, Jan 31: Vigorously pushing its mega New Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road plans over which India has reservations, China admitted "mistrust" among other countries over its "strategic motivations" and sought to ally concerns of "regional hegemony".
Refuting comparisons between Silk Road plans for which President Xi Jinping has allocated USD 40 billion and that of the US' post-Second World War Marshall Plan aimed at advancing Washington's influence, state-run Xinhua news agency said the "One Belt and One Road" was not aimed at furthering China's "regional hegemony". "Nevertheless, there remains mistrust in China's strategic motivation behind the Silk Road proposals.
It is not surprising, as these are novel initiatives, especially to major powers," it said. The Silk Road involving a maze of roads including the ancient Silk route connecting China with Europe through Central Asia, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor connecting China and Pakistan through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Maritime Silk Road (MSR) connecting China with different ports evoked mixed response.
While India is taking part in the discussions of the BCIM it has not reacted to the MSR amid apprehensions that it was aimed enhancing China's role in India's backyard, the Indian Ocean.
Officials say China may broach the issue during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's four-day visit starting later today. She is due to hold talks with Xi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Xinhua said the plan evoked interest in 50 countries. Sri Lanka was the first to approve the project under the previous pro-China Mahinda Rajapaksa government last year but the new government said it is reviewing the China funded USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project which if not approved or downsized could cause a setback to MSR as it was regarded as a main centre for the Indian Ocean region.
The MSR also includes Kolkata's port to further trade and commerce integrating regional and global markets. "Unlike the Marshall Plan, no political conditions have been imposed on participants in the Silk Road frameworks. China has always advocated that countries should respect each other's rights to independently choose their own social system and development path," the Xinhua article said. It is open to all countries and aims to achieve win-win situations rather than regional hegemony, it said.
The One-Belt and One-Road initiatives are similar to the Marshall Plan a careful view would show fundamental differences in historical context, motivation and potential impact between China's approach and the postwar plan of the US to provide economic and military assistance to its allies of western Europe, it said. "There is no guarantee that the modern Silk Road will be an easy success, but time will prove that it is much more than the Marshall Plan and that China's gain is not others' loss," it said.