“Chinese New Maritime Silk Route Initiative: Opportunity or Threat for India?” in R. Sidda Goud and Manisha Mookherjee, Eds., Sino-Indian Relations: Contemporary Perspective, Allied Publishers, 2016.
M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies
China is increasingly demonstrating its assertiveness and employs various strategies to maximize its interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Chinese president Xi Jinping declaration of Beijing’s plans to establish a “New 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR),” part of the One Belt, One Road initiative is the latest initiative that envisage greater economic cooperation and connectivity from Quanzhou in Fujian to Red Sea (into the Mediterranean via Athens) and then linking up with its land silk route at Venice. With the pledged US$40 billion (in the Silk Road Fund) Chinas intend to develop infrastructure along the route and through these makes efforts to consolidate its existing projects. This scheme not only opens up greater economic opportunities for China and its corporation but will also contribute in enlarging its sphere of influence.
Significantly, the response from the countries in the region to China’s MSR proposal ranges from mixed to lukewarm. Many of the countries in Asia-Pacific have welcomed and keen to join, whereas on the other hand countries like India have maintained silence. The China’s massive investment and projects in many of the littoral states in India’s neighbourhood, New Delhi joining Beijing’s New Silk Road seems far from reality. The dynamics of India-China relations and the apprehension among policy makers and security establishment is primary rationale. Even though India may benefit from the projects to an extent (for instance, development of Northeast India or coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal) the MSR poses challenges to India’s commercial, economic and political interest. The book chapter largely focused on understanding the MSR from India’s strategic interest perspective and in this context analyses Whether the Chinese MSR project is an opportunity or threat to India? Even if it’s going to benefit India, the question is how much India stands to gain from this China’s Belt and Road Initiative?