Shahid Majeed Mir

BRI: A Trap or Miracle of 21st Century

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China tries to provide soft image for Western replacement on eve of Donald Trump's retreat

Chinese Marquee project deemed to be an ambitious plan of President Xing Ping has formally completed two summits recently with a grand ceremony in Beijing. Right from its inception the said project attracted discussions and debates at par with issues including Afghanistan and North Korea. However, the summit witnessed something exemplary for China this time, as it succeeded to include a G- 7 economy in the Clout. Not only G 7 member’s participation amused but the Chinese success of making inroads in Western Europe is regarded as the Pinnacle of project.

The summit witnessed huge participants ranging from state representatives to UN agencies and hundreds of NGO’S of international level, thanks to gigantic Deng Xiapeng dream of Chinese economy. The two events amid Italian participation gained maximum coverage in headlines remained to be analysed for the nature of the Project. The wide publicity amid participation of heads from novice axis of Russia – Pakistan – China is supposed to govern or at least heavily influence the state of affairs in Asia Pacific despite the Quad’s planning around “Containment of China”.

The aloofness of India (the biggest South Asian country and southern neighbour of China) from participation in the said summit is secretly pulling the carriage behind as otherwise would have been dreamt by China. These two events mark it dubious for its “Economic miracle to Economic diplomacy stature”. The questions often asked are regarding economy becoming increasingly diplomatic!

China is in the centre stage of defending the plan exclusively in the nature of meeting infrastructural demands of 21st century and is supportive of the expansion of trade. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or yi dai yi lu) also called “21st Century Silk Road” or China’s Marshall Plan was announced by China in 2013. It is made of “belt” of overland routes and maritime “road”, with an aim to connect Asia, Europe and Africa and will impact countries that make half of world’s population. ‘The Belt’ means Silk Road Economic Belt comprising of three overland routes which connects China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. Therefore the Central theme of Project is to connect China with hinterlands in Europe and underutilized African and Asian countries to supplement the growth trajectory of heavyweight Chinese productive capacity.

History traces the plan to an ancient Silk Route meant for export of silk and silk like products from China to Europe via Central Asia deemed to be original route for supposed BRI. To a more expansion trajectory the Maritime silk route addition through a range of invested Port led infrastructure via Indian Ocean in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and All weather friend Pakistan in Chittagong port , Hambantota port  and Gawadar Port respectively. Therefore the BRI is engaged in clapping whole Asia and Europe in the Corridors of sea Lanes , rail tracks , transmission lines , et al .

To a naked eye the commoners take it as benevolence from China to reinforce the growth trajectory of developing world and take the wind out of sail from Western led Global order. The China herself tries to provide soft image for Western replacement on eve of Donald Trump’s retreat. The mistaken belief of sidelining Pakistan by US led order provided ripe opportunity for China to clove the strategic country in its ambit. Moreover the skirmish between China – India on political issues helped the former to attract the neighborhood of latter towards BRI. And the thorny issues of US hegemony with Western European countries also to some extent fuelled the unraveling of Chinese dream. Now to a broader analysis, the Project no doubt possesses potential to lessen the infrastructural deficit in the emerging economies and provide faster means of trade and communication across the border.

The plan would unravel the dream of global village through Lanes of trade and communication beyond barriers. Majority of the financial luminaries and institutions, whether Govt supported or NGO’s supported, take measure for helping the Global economy. Moreover the project as it seems supports deficit countries of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Greece , Central Asia et al . The project has immense potential to generate millions of jobs and opportunities all around the world. As deemed rightly by proponents, the economic miracle of 21st century.

However all is not well with the project. On the parameter that project is a unilateral initiative of China banked on its sovereign wealth and treasury with trillions of Forex Reserves makes it dubious for the matter of fact. Why would China throw away its Renminbi to deficit areas without interests of its own? Why only connection with China ? Every lane has to initiate and end at Chinese mainland. The supposed project is unilateral mainly invested through State led Chinese companies and enterprises which makes it dubious. The Chinese led Bank AIIB is playing a Central role in carrying forward the plan. The rules and procedure governing the project are framed bilaterally between host country and China as in CPEC and Sri Lanka. Since China is heavyweight having upper hand and wide alibi which most often gets advantage at cost of small countries. Maldives Govt signed agreement which was continuously critiqued by opposition for being detrimental to domestic economy. The Malaysian Govt in 2016 signed agreements under leadership of Najib Razak which was scrapped by his successor Mahatir Mohammad for being harsh and disadvantageous. The Agreement could only be revived after Chinese downturn on interest rate and other parameters. The loans provided are too heavy for developing economies due to lack of transparency and fairness. The Indian position in this regard is grounded in truthfulness. The mammoth project supposed to include majority stake of Global economy ought to be based on mutually agreed rules and procedures after consenting all participants. The missing link in this case is obviously guiding to a Chinese hide and seek for Renminbi plan (Moniker in place of Marshall plan) for small Nations to speedily traverse the super power trajectory. The Sri Lankan lease agreement is so lackadaisical to control the strategic port for next century. Similarly the CPEC analysis provides insights for Pakistan to slowly bend the knees in front of China. Therefore the plan in this regard is obviously an economic trap to tap the markets and  resources (to help Baluchistan) on one hand  and control affairs of host countries on the other ( Mayanmar and Nepal) .

As quoted by Lincoln ” National interests precede tag of Friend or Enemy in the fraternity of countries “. The Chinese in this regard have always proven to be loyal soldiers right form inception of Chinese civilization herself. The project is actually a trap and net for small fishes to get caught unaware of in the benign game plan of offering Renminbi. The project needs multilateral consensus in Rules and procedures which would govern the investment otherwise the Chinese one time investment would provide it unending dividends for centuries.

It will act as suction pump squeezing everything on banks of Yellow River. Moreover the Indian position of challenging sovereignty is also farsighted as the international dispute of Kashmir may fall into trouble due to UNSC members intervention. However the Indian abstention would neither serve its own purpose nor the purpose of whole humanity. The plan is progressive and thought provoking if adequate safeguards as discussed above are attached to it. Since Chinese dream of super power is a matter of years now or it already has started to traverse the steps so the Indian stated position has to be evaluated and attached for rule based order in quickest possible time span.  The BCIM corridor poised to be lifeline for renewed vigour and spirit in economic relationship has been dropped from BRI website by China after India’s mistaken skip to the forum recently.

It’s to be noted that modern era isn’t guided by conservative stance of illogical claims but the constructive ideology based on consensus and dialogue across the table. The country with Marquee dream of global power could never take a gamble of open confrontation with china. In this regard indian Diplomacy needs immediate revival to engage the participants and iron out the differences lest it may fail and get caught in the String of pearls laid out for it around the coastline. The sooner we join though after consensus with give and take the better it’s to weaken the link of emerging axis ( China-Russia-Pakistan). And tap the potential from strength of domestic economy as compared to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka et al. To sum it up BRI is more a trap than a miracle.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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