NATIONAL

India factor in Silk Road project to temper Beijing-Islamabad ties

India has acquired fresh leverage in its ties with China, which is seeking New Delhi’s cooperation to fulfil its aspirations to develop the critically important Silk Road blueprint.

India has acquired fresh leverage in its ties with China, which is seeking New Delhi’s cooperation to fulfil its aspirations to develop the critically important Silk Road blueprint.  

China is expected to finalise with Pakistan a deal for eight diesel-electric submarines during President Xi Jinping’s visit next week. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, however, has said New Delhi has the ability to match the proposed acquisitions by Islamabad.

“I do not see it as a big problem because we will have enough submarines by the time Pakistan gets these eight. By the time they get the deliveries, we can manufacture 15-20 submarines,” he said in an interview.

‘Second nuclear-strike capability’

But analysts say the devil would be in the detail, for Indian security interests could be gravely affected if China cooperates with Pakistan to turn the submarines into platforms for a second nuclear-strike capability.

Reports in Bloomberg have quoted Iskander Rehman of the Washington-based Atlantic Council as saying that Pakistani naval commanders may want to follow Israel’s example of equipping conventional submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles.

Pakistan formed the Naval Strategic Force Command Headquarters in 2012, which would be in charge of the “nation’s second-strike capability,” a statement on a Pakistan military website had said.

Despite the special relationship between China and Pakistan, observers say that India has acquired fresh leverage in its ties with Beijing, which is seeking New Delhi’s cooperation to fulfil its aspirations to develop the critically important Silk Road blueprint.

Some Chinese academics in government-linked think tanks say that China is wary that the United States in the Western Pacific, India in the Indian Ocean, and Russia in Central Asia could be possible impediments to the “belt and road” initiative, a coinage that encompasses China’s plan to develop the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century MSR.

India’s concerns

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, there appears to be greater sensitivity in Beijing to India’s concerns regarding terrorism that originates from Pakistan. In a conversation with a group of Indian journalists, Hu Shisheng, of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, stated that, “India’s concerns over terrorism will be addressed in a more constructive way.”

Anti-terror cooperation

However, he pointed out that “China and Pakistan have been undergoing very close anti-terror cooperation,” especially to safeguard the Gwadar-linked economic corridor — an observation that reflects Beijing’s emerging dilemma of striking a balance between China’s “all-weather” ties with Pakistan and a rapidly maturing relationship with India, under President Xi’s watch.

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