Silk Route

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  • What Beijing’s Expanding Digital Silk Road Means to India?

    The Digital Silk Road can give China the power to shape global digital governance norms in its favour and the political, economic and strategic tools to be a technological hegemon, posing enormous challenges to emerging economies like India.

    August 24, 2021

    Makran Gateways: A Strategic Reference for Gwadar and Chabahar

    The spirit of 'Connectivity', a salient motif in early-twenty first century international relations (IR), has provided an amenable context for a review of geo-determinism in IR theory and the defence of classical geopolitical models as analytical frameworks. No contemporary case study is perhaps more admissible in this regard than the scramble for connectivity leadership in Central and South Asia.

    The Belt and Road Initiative: Exploring Beijing’s Motivations and Challenges for its New Silk Road

    This article argues that Beijing’s ambitious ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) is driven by the convergence of Innenpolitik and Aussenpolitik motivations including a desire: to counterbalance perceived American predominance; to ensure economic growth to underpin the CCP’s legitimacy; and to present China as a viable alternate global leader to the United States.

    March 2018

    Suchak Patel asked: As China continues to encircle India, earlier through ‘string of pearls’ and now the Belt and Road Initiative, why is India still hesitant to form a ‘Democratic Quad’?

    Prashant Kumar Singh replies: The question posed appears to be based on three assumptions, agreeing to which is a little difficult. First, China is encircling India through ‘string of pearls’ and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Secondly, that the proposed ‘Democratic Quad’ is a response to this encirclement. Thirdly, India is hesitant to form the ‘Quad’ and that it is India’s hesitance alone that is holding up its formation.

    Unpacking China’s White Paper on Maritime Cooperation under BRI

    The vision document considers maritime security cooperation as a lynchpin in the MSR and attempts to redesign the existing maritime security architecture in the oceanic arena of MSR.

    June 28, 2017

    Benefitting from China’s Belt and Road Initiative

    Any Indian initiative which is economically prudent and culturally appropriate could neutralise those advantages China seeks to draw from its Belt and Road Initiative vis-à-vis India, and even maximise its benefits.

    November 22, 2016

    Kranti Tejan asked: Is China's new 'Maritime Silk Road' the other name for 'String of Pearls'? And, if so, what are its strategic and economic implications for India?

    Abhijit Singh replies: The ‘string of pearls’ is a notional concept that represents Indian fears of a Chinese maritime encirclement of India. The underlying apprehension is that the vast maritime infrastructure that China is establishing in the Indian Ocean may be used as naval logistics and resupply bases to facilitate a broad expansion of Chinese military influence and interests in the region.

    Jaydeep Asked: What are the security implications of China's ‘Maritime Silk Road’ for India?

    Abhijit Singh replies: In order to assess the security implications of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR), it is necessary to understand what the proposal really entails. China’s plan for a maritime corridor is intended at creating maritime infrastructure and enhancing connectivity in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. First proposed by President Xi Jinping during his trip to Southeast Asia in October 2013, the MSR was originally aimed at enhancing maritime cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. Recently, however, China reached out to Sri Lanka and India inviting them to join the MSR, revealing a wider vision for the Indian Ocean.

    An idea essentially premised on the leveraging of Chinese soft power, the MSR is potentially beneficial for all regional states in the near term. Part of its appeal lies in an allied initiative of a maritime cooperation fund announced by Chinese Premier Li Kechiang last year, which regional state have shown interest in. The sales pitch of “shared economic gains”, however, does little to conceal the proposal’s real purpose: ensuring the security of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean. In its eventual form, therefore, the MSR could end up setting up Chinese logistical hubs and military bases, linking up already existing ‘string of pearls’.

    As Beijing becomes more involved in the security and governance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), it could pose a challenge to India’s stature of a ‘net provider of security’ in the region, thereby adversely affecting New Delhi’s geopolitical stakes and strategic influence.

    Posted on April 16, 2014

    Ajinkya asked: What is the ‘New Silk Road’ initiative taken by the United States? What are the benefits for India in this?

    Rajorshi Roy replies: The ‘New Silk Road’ initiative was introduced by the former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2011. This US strategy primarily aims at the economic development of Afghanistan by utilising its potential as a land-bridge between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’ and connecting Central with South Asia. It has been reasoned that economic incentives will encourage political integration in order to build long-term stability in the region. This is an ambitious though a visionary plan which will require a lot of deft political and economic manoeuvring.

    The initiative aims to create new infrastructure like highways, railroads, electricity networks and energy pipelines along with reduced legal barriers to trade. Some specific projects which have been mentioned include the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, U.S. sponsored project to transmit electricity from hydropower plants in Central Asia to Afghanistan and a plausible Afghanistan-Pakistan free trade agreement. The transit potential of Afghanistan can help sustain its economy over the long run and at the same time help build political, economic and energy ties across the region.

    In the Ancient Silk Road, wherein Afghanistan was centrally located due to its geographical location, goods were transported from Beijing to Bactria and then towards Turkey and the commercial ports of Europe. The ‘New Silk Road’ broadly highlights the present day geopolitical realities. To an extent, the new US policy can also be seen as an attempt to reduce Russia’s influence in Central Asia, a region often referred to as Russia’s ‘Near Abroad’.

    India has backed this multinational initiative aimed at linking the resource-rich Central Asia with South Asian economies. The mutual benefits are enormous. India will gain a direct access to both Afghan and Central Asian markets and from there on to Russian and European markets. This is a much more economically viable route. The energy potential of Central Asian countries can also be tapped into. Moreover, it has been envisioned that the new initiative will help in bringing lasting stability and prosperity to Afghanistan, a goal long strived for by India.

    For more details on the New Silk Road Initiative, please refer to the following US department of state web-link:

    The ‘New Silk Road’: India's Pivotal Role

    This commentary will begin by giving a background of the ‘New Silk Road’ and its different versions, moving on to a discussion of the geopolitical and economic factors related to it. The commentary will then try to analyse some of the critical obstacles to the ‘New Silk Road’ and also make recommendations for a more acceptable and feasible project within the current geopolitical set-up

    July 2012