Tuesday, 3 May 2016

One Belt One Road .....


High hopes on the Indian economy are exuded and promises galore are made almost every day on the subject of development in India by the politicians. They are of all hues, ideologies and beliefs, because many states are being ruled by different parties or coalitions. But not only that there is no appreciable development seen at the ground level but no solid plans for accelerating the pace of development with a long term planning . The problem it seems is that any government in India, be it central, state, municipal or panchayat, knows that they have a fixed term after which they have to face the electorate again. Even the ones , which come to power with absolute majority with an overwhelming mandate in their favour know this. And they are very wary about it. So every government tries to direct their development plans, programs and activities towards the sole aim to win the next elections. Instead of taking tough decisions with a long term view, they go in for the softer options of appeasing to different vote banks through subsidy, reservations and jobs without linking them to the overall picture of growth.

But this post is not about India at all. All of what I have written above is with a deep sigh and a sense of feeling like the middling student in the class as he looks at the first boy(or girl) on the day results are distributed. Even as we cry with hoarse voices debating over what to eat, what to study , what to wear , what to sing and what to see our biggest neighbour , about whom we actually know very little, in spite of stated bilateral relations of millenniums, have stolen a march over us with their typical planning on a grand and audacious scale .
All of us must be aware that the last three decades have been a story of China transforming, from a country with a closed and inward–looking economy largely dependent on agriculture (like us) with the burden of the largest population , into a global powerhouse in manufacturing and construction . The financial model of investing and producing on a large scale at home and then exporting to developed markets is a huge success and has elevated it to the world’s second-largest economy after the USA.

But as it happens with economic cycles, in particular and the evolution of societies in general, a slower economic growth now stares at China, actually the whole world. But instead of breaking heads or splitting hair on the causes, reasons, the whys and the wherefores of the economic slump, the Chinese leadership has already outlined and also rolled into action, their next ambitious plan to revive the economy. This time, they are not limiting themselves to domestic resources or capabilities. Keeping in line with their increasing sphere of influence China is now looking to rope in a number of countries in their neighbourhood and beyond with their ambitious “One Belt, One Road” concept .

As a concept, the “One Belt, One Road” project aims to combine the historical land route known as the “Silk route” with the naval route that has been followed by the Chinese over the years into the Mediterranean. The sheer magnitude of this plan can be gauged by the fact that it encompasses 60 countries of Asia , Europe and Africa . And yes it is not surprising and quite ominous too, that India has no part in the scheme of things. Rather, if we see the way this project has been planned, it will be apparent that India will face the biggest threat from the project. Geopolitics and energy security are at the core of this project and seen from a different perspective, it can be interpreted as China’s efforts to
1) Build a sphere of influence around itself
2) provide itself with a buffer in case of a catastrophic war
3) Establish hegemony with its vision of dominance.
Apart from geopolitical ramifications, the plan, if it gets through will help China to redirect its domestic overcapacity and capital for regional infrastructure development which will boost trade and relations with ASEAN, Central Asian and European countries. Massive construction activities will create a big demand for its steel, cement and aluminium industries, among others. A huge capital outlay will be required for this project and that may prove to be a game changer for the world economy.

Now see the route-map for the project and that will surely give you a shiver, up your spine. India will be trapped and encircled with this plan. Knowingly or unknowingly, by fate or by design, the two most populous countries of the world are facing each other. And the balance is tilted against us. Time has come when we need to be aware of the threat and have concrete plans to exist in a hostile environment (like Israel) using all means, be it economic, military, agriculture, diplomacy or technology. But that needs a far better commitment from the politicians. The culture of Jumlaas and public posturing will be of no use.

I am sure that the national leaders and think tank must be aware of the situation in a closer and better manner. I also hope that we are ably equipped to deal with any situation that emerges out of this grand plan which is potentially inimical to our interests. But we must also be careful not to fall in the trap of scoring small points with a policy of unnecessary needling and conflict at the behest of other international powers.

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