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Why Chinese experts’ hope that India should embrace BRI is over simplified

By Shubham

New Delhi, June 29: Even though India has time and again emphasised that it is not game for China's much-vaunted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), experts in China predict that the huge dividends India enjoys from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will eventually see the South Asian power to accept the BRI initiative, a report in the country's Global Times media said on Tuesday, June 26.

Why Chinese experts’ hope that India should embrace BRI is over simplified

The Chinese experts' hope emanated from the fact that India is the largest borrower of AIIB, a Beijing-based multilateral development bank which is in operation since 2016. India has already got it projects financed by the bank to the extent of $4.4 billion, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg recently said recently.

The third annual meeting of the AIIB was held in Mumbai this week where Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the commitment that India and AIIB have towards economic development.

"With a huge population, India is still at an early stage of economic development. And its rapid growth is accompanied by a broadening gap in infrastructure," the Global Times quoted Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China, as saying. He said: "The country has a federal system while its private sector is reluctant to invest in infrastructure projects, which all hinder its infrastructure development," the report added.

According to Wang, India, because of these reasons, has high expectations from the AIIB to help it overcome the gap which requires a massive funding.

The Chinese expert feel that India's quest for economic development and sustainability; its location along the BRI routes could see and the Modi government's emphasis on connectivity with the neighbouring countries could eventually see India feeling convinced about the BRI scheme.

Wang further noted that India's concerns over the BRI are mainly due to the cooperation between China and Pakistan and their CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), the Global Times report said. He advised that instead of focusing on "certain concepts", countries should be concentrating more on "concrete projects" that could yield dividends.

It's not that easy for India to join BRI

These observations might seem to be economically practical but at the same time, politically over-simplistic. Even if the rulers of the day in India understand the viability of the BRI, it is completely a different ball-game to embrace it.

Tian Guangqiang, assistant research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that New Delhi should shed its "doubts and worries from a geopolitical perspective" but it is much easier said than done and might not be possible at all, contrary to Tian's view that it "takes time".

Dealing with the Chinese is a very sensitive matter for the Indian establishment. The 1962 debacle is something that India hasn't forgotten to this day and current PM Modi will never risk his political capitals by taking a bold step of embracing the BRI. In fact, it is hard to believe that any Indian leadership will do that.

It's a question on sovereignty and it can't be compromised

The main reason for this difficulty is that the CPEC runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and embracing BRI, of which the CPEC is a part, will only give validity to the Chinese project which India deems to violate its sovereignty. The political cost of embracing it will be humongous for any democratically elected government in India, exceeding the hopes of cumulating economic gains in the long term. In fact, India's entire foreign policy foundation on China and Pakistan will be in doldrums if it joins BRI.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi did not forget to take a dig at Modi when he went to Wuhan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for an informal summit, asking him to raise issues like Doklam and CPEC with Beijing. One can well imagine what it would mean for the government if it acknowledges the BRI with the sovereignty-violating CPEC as a part of it. Disaster is an understatement.

India can't, just like Xi can't cede an inch of Chinese territory

For the Chinese, it is easier to see things as they are doing at the moment when at the dictating end. But just like any minimal outside presence in the disputed South China Sea is considered intolerable by their forces and Xi reiterates the fact that China can not afford to cede an inch of its territory to the US defence secretary during their meeting in Beijing, the same applies to New Delhi's policy-makers.

If a centralised system like China with zero noise cannot afford to lose an inch of its territory, forget India, a noisy democracy, doing the same.

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