Implications of OBOR
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Read Current Affairs Topic: Implications of OBOR
The One Belt One Road (OBOR), also known as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), is the most ambitious development project proposed by China that aims to connect Eurasian and African countries to boost economic cooperation. This would be akin to the historical Silk Route which connected China with Central Asian and Arab countries.
The Silk Route during its heydays helped in the development of the regions it traversed through. The OBOR is the modern day Silk Route that would connect countries in Asia Africa and Europe with the network of railways, roads, pipelines, power plants etc.
The OBOR action plan comprises two main components:
- Silk Road Economic Belt: three routes connecting China to Europe (via Central Asia), the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean (through West Asia), and the Indian Ocean (via South Asia).
- 21st Century Maritime Silk Road: to create connections between the three routes connecting regional waterways. More than 60 countries, with a combined GDP of USD21 trillion, have expressed interest in participating in the OBOR action plan.
China is selling the initiative as an economic project. China’s National Development and Reform Commission outlined following aims of OBOR:
- Connectivity projects of the Initiative will help align and coordinate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road.
- Tap market potential in the region.
- Promote investment and consumption
- Create demand and job opportunities
- Enhance people to people contact and cultural exchanges
- Mutual learning among the peoples of the relevant countries, and enable them to understand, trust and respect each other and live in harmony, peace and prosperity
- Share developmental dividends with other developing nations for common prosperity
Implications for China
For the past few years, the growth rate of China is slowing down. Though China itself is the second largest economy with largest population in the world, the domestic demand is unable to generate the required growth. For that matter, it sees international trade as the driving force for the future prosperity. Countries participating in OBOR are expected to be the future trade partners of China.
Currently, China is reeling with overproduction. Due to moderate growth and lack of demand, it is unable to work at full capacity. The OBOR will link production centres in China with markets and natural resource centres across the world.
China also hopes it will increase use of the Renminbi not just as a transactional currency but as a reserve currency with this project by becoming major trade partner of the participating countries. A substantial part of the US consumption is funded by China as it holds treasury bonds worth USD1.2 trillion. It also holds around USD4.0 trillion of the foreign exchange reserves. Since the interest on US treasury bonds is as low as 2%, it is better for China to use this money to fund OBOR which will also serve as measure to counter the geopolitical influence of the US which is its major long term rival.
Apart from the economic reasons, the OBOR has some political reasons as well. As the global clout of China is increasing, it is aspiring to take over the leadership role from the US and the OBOR might be instrumental in its aspirations. Once completed, OBOR will extend China’s economic, diplomatic and military power well beyond its borders and across the world placing China virtually on par with the US.
Political pundits also believe countries where, China is funding the OBOR, will have to play in accordance with the rules framed by China. In these countries, China will deploy its surplus manpower to build them, and idle state-owned enterprises to construct them thus giving a boost to the Chinese economy.
Implications for India
On May 14, 2017, China hosted a conference for OBOR which was boycotted by India. Apart from India, Japan was another major country that boycotted the conference while the US sent its dignitary at the last moment after initial hesitation.
The foremost concern of India regarding OBOR is the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty issue. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the Pakistani leg of grand OBOR plan, passes through the Gilgit Baltistan regions of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) which is claimed by India to be its integral part.
Another Indian concern is that CPEC will connect Pakistan Gwadar port with Xinjiang region of China. The Gwadar port developed by China can also become the future naval base of China which can even dock submarines.
The success of OBOR depends upon the stability of the regions from where it passes. Many regions along the new silk route are volatile in nature and will distract the trade.
Many small nations are apprehensive about the real intention of Chinese as view the initiative as a form of neo-colonialism to grab the local resources. Already, many experts in Pakistan are concerned due to the opaqueness of CPEC and diminishing say of Pakistan in the project as most work is contracted to Chinese companies only.
India too had slammed the project calling it little more than a colonial enterprise. The rules of engagement in OBOR are opaque, ambiguous and unclear. India in its statement said that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. Project may also cause unsustainable debt burden on the partner countries as happened in Sri Lanka where Hambantota port that was developed by China had left the former in reeling under the debt of USD8.0 billion.
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