India should participate in China’s Belt and Road initiative and take economic advantage of it, senior leader of the Indian National Congress Manish Tewari said Thursday, adding that the country has nothing to lose if it becomes part of the initiative. Compared with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reluctance toward China’s infrastructure project, Tewari’s attitude is undoubtedly encouraging.
The Modi government interprets China’s proposal from a geopolitical perspective. It insists that China, by intensifying cooperation with Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, is thinking of encircling India, and that the Belt and Road initiative will tremendously boost China’s economic, political and security influence on regional countries, challenging India’s dominance in South Asia.
China’s efforts and peripheral countries’ enthusiasm for the initiative seem to fail to dispel India’s strategic suspicions. Beijing has reiterated on several occasions that it has no intention to seek regional hegemony. Strengthening economic exchanges with countries along the route for mutual benefits is what Beijing pursues.
In addition, a number of countries neighboring India have already joined the Belt and Road initiative. Leaders of countries that have territorial disputes with China, for instance, the Philippines and Vietnam, and high-level representatives from the US and Japan all presented at Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing this May, showing willingness to join China’s infrastructure project.
Despite these, New Delhi is still wary of Beijing’s intentions. Such strategic concerns are rooted in India’s lack of confidence and sense of security.
The B&R initiative is a historic opportunity that will not only boost the development of Beijing and New Delhi, but also help eliminate factors that may destabilize the world. The economy is the basis for development, and its growth is indispensible to expand its influence in South Asia in the era of globalization. Participating in the Belt and Road initiative and taking economic advantage of it, as Tewari suggests, is the fundamental solution to enhancing India’s national strength.
Modi’s Beijing strategy is, in essence, being wary of any move of the Chinese government, which it thinks will bring strategic losses to India instead. Precautious of the Belt and Road initiative, Modi can only win support from outdated pro-establishment forces under the name of “nationalism,” but will not help revive the country.
China’s Belt and Road initiative has answered the call of countries along the route for development. However India protests, it won’t affect the process of the initiative, or alter the historic trend of increasing mutual interdependence between China and regional counties. It will be more likely for India to reach major power status if the Modi government can answer domestic voices, actively participate in the Belt and Road initiative and strengthen the country’s infrastructure and regional connectivity.