China’s Silk Road diplomacy willing to enmesh India’s projects

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (File photo)  

China is signaling to India and its neighbourhood that it is ready to reorient its foreign policy to address regional concerns, ahead of a defence dialogue with New Delhi and the launch of a fresh drive to hard sell its Silk Road initiatives.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said in response to a question regarding India’s “Spice Route” and “Mausam” projects that, “China is ready to work with South Asian countries, including India, Sri Lanka, to strengthen policy communication, identify the meeting point of their development strategies, explore effective ways of mutually beneficial cooperation and common benefit of the region, countries and the people.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s willingness for a dialogue for accommodation beyond the bilateral framework follows observations by Le Yucheng, China’s ambassador to India. In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Le had said that China was “willing to strengthen communication and coordination with India, to link the ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives with India’s ‘Spice Route’ and ‘Mausam’ projects, and bring tangible benefits to the peoples in our two countries and throughout the region.”

The ‘Mausam’ project envisages the re-establishment of India’s ancient maritime routes with its traditional trade partners along the Indian Ocean. The ‘Spice Route of India’, visualises the India-centered linkup of historic sea routes in Asia, Europe and Africa.

China’s openness for a fresh brainstorming exercise precedes the annual two-day defence dialogue that starts on April 8. Led by Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur, talks will focus on expanding tri-service cooperation between the two countries, which are impacted by the contradictory pulls of the border dispute, and the need for finding common ground to counter terrorism in the region. The upcoming defence talks are part of rapidly expanding Sino-Indian dialogue, which has now been animated by Beijing’s “belt and road” initiative. China has substantiated its vision of establishing Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the 21st century Maritime Silk Route (MSR) which will integrate the economies of Eurasia.

 Last month, Special Representatives on the boundary issue of the two sides — state councillor Yang Jeichi and Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor — have concluded their talks, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to China in May.

Analysts say that signs of flexibility in China’s external policy follow the two visits by a Chinese submarine to Sri Lanka, ruffling feathers in India, which is zealous about safeguarding its prime role in the Indian Ocean. But last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a trilateral partnership among Beijing, New Delhi and Colombo, during the visit to China by Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena.

China’s calibrated manoeuvre to avoid friction with India in Sri Lanka — a country vital for realisation of the MSR — took Colombo by surprise. In an interview with the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post (SCMP), Sri Lankan finance minister Ravi Karunanayake said: “The Chinese President took us by surprise when he said China, India and Sri Lanka should all work together to avoid any suggestions of regional animosity.”

He added: “(Mr.) Xi said why we don’t get India to work with us, which was seized upon by President Sirisena, who said that would be the best possible outcome. Both Presidents agreed that India should be part of the equation.”

Mr. Xi had raised the level of trilateral proposal following the observations in February by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. In response to a question by The Hindu Mr. Wang said that, for starters, the three countries could consider tie ups in developing tourism routes, leveraging their “abundant Buddhist tourism resources.”

Seeking complementarity instead of competition, the Chinese have also proposed that the MSR would dovetail with the Global Maritime Fulcrum, an initiative of Indonesia — another emerging economy — which seeks to develop the maritime resources of the archipelago in a comprehensive manner.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 3:25:51 AM |

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