by Brig Arun Bajpai

Attending Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit comprising of eight nations for the first time along with Pakistan as full fledged members at Qingdao resort city of China recently, India stood by its principle of not endorsing China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which other seven countries did, on the principle of sovereignty and lack of transparency in the project. It is worth remembering that India has been opposed to BRI right from the beginning, and did not even participate in its launch in Beijing last year in keeping with its national interest.

India has been opposed to this Chinese project of intercontinental connectivity that goes by the name of BRI, right from its beginning because it passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which is claimed by India. At best it is a disputed territory that Pakistan also knows. In addition India all along has been saying that this Chinese project is opaque. Even in the countries who are participating in this Chinese project, now strong suspicion is taking shape that china is passing its domestic debt ridden economy on to the participating countries. The suspicion is that cost of this BRI project of China is so high that it will be almost impossible for the smaller participating country to pay back the loans taken from China, so they will have to cede their territory.

It is like return of British East India Company which colonised India for almost 200 years. Case in point is Hambantota port of Sri Lanka which China has developed for its maritime BRI. Since Sri Lanka is not able to pay back 1 billion dollars that China has spent on it, so Sri Lanka has given this port to China on 99 years lease. In this also China has withheld its last tranche of 816 million dollars to be paid to Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka has said NO to the Chinese plan of developing an artificial island in the sea here for entertainment purposes. Even in Pakistan where china is spending 55 Billion Dollars on their BRI in Pakistan, known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), lot of dissenting voices are rising. Large number of Pakistani economic experts feel that Pakistan will not be able to pay back to China this loan coming with a hefty interest and Pakistan will become a de facto colony of China.

Whole world is saying that without India’s participation in BRI, this project of China will never achieve its full potential. China is also very keen that India should participate, but then what effort apart from cajoling India to join BRI China is making? Today America having become wiser on Pakistani double cross has stopped all aid to Pakistan measuring about 2 billion dollars. Pakistan’s only ally is China now, supplying Pakistan with arms and what have you. Surely China can pressurise Pakistan to stop all cross border jihad which it inflicts on India. China can also put pressure on Pakistan to allow road route to India from its territory to Afghanistan and central Asian countries. Similarly we should not forget that both China and Pakistan are very strong in their demand for their sovereignty so why should not India? We can also not forget that while Wuhan Summit is welcome China was confronting India for 73 days in Doklam. If China wants to build trust with India then it should formalise the current line of actual control with India as formal boundary and drop its claim on Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. China should also open its market to Indian export of agriculture goods and Pharmaceuticals. China will have to understand that it takes two to tango. Finally it is good to see India developing spine and standing up for its national interests.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same