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China opens first road-rail transport link to Indian Ocean

GS Paper 2

Topics covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

 

Context: The first shipments on a newly-launched railway line from the Myanmar border to the key commercial hub of Chengdu in western China was made recently

More on the news:

  • This project provides China a new road-rail transportation channel to the Indian Ocean
  • The transport corridor involves a sea-road-rail link.
  • This passage connects the logistics lines of Singapore, Myanmar and China, and is currently the most convenient land and sea channel linking the Indian Ocean with southwest China

current affairs

  • China also has plans to develop another port in Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine state, including a proposed railway line from Yunnan directly to the port
  • Chinese planners have also looked at the Gwadar port in Pakistan as another key outlet to the Indian Ocean that will bypass the Malacca Straits.
  • Gwadar is being developed as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the far western Xinjiang region, but has been slow to take off amid concerns over security. The costs and logistics through CPEC are also less favourable than the Myanmar route with the opening of the rail transport channel from the Myanmar border right to western China’s biggest commercial hub, Chengdu.

 

About China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

What is BRI?

The Belt and Road Initiative, reminiscent of the Silk Road, is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. It was launched in 2013.

  • The plan is two-pronged: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road-The two were collectively referred to first as the One Belt, One Road initiative but eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The project involves creating a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings.

Pakistan and BRI:

To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so.

  • Analysts estimate the largest so far to be the estimated $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of projects connecting China to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

What was the original Silk Road?

The original Silk Road arose during the westward expansion of China’s Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which forged trade networks throughout the Central Asian countries, as well as modern-day India and Pakistan to the south. Those routes extended more than four thousand miles to Europe.

How have other countries responded to BRI?

Some countries see the project as a disturbing expansion of Chinese power.

The United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development and military expansion.

What does China hope to achieve?

China has both geopolitical and economic motivations behind the initiative.

  • The country has promoted a vision of a more assertive China, while slowing growth and rocky trade relations with the United States have pressured the country’s leadership to open new markets for its goods.
  • Experts see the BRI as one of the main planks of a bolder Chinese statecraft under Xi, alongside the Made in China 2025economic development strategy.
  • The BRI also serves as pushback against the much-touted  “pivot to Asia,”as well as a way for China to develop new investment opportunities, cultivate export markets, and boost Chinese incomes and domestic consumption.

India’s views:

India has tried to convince countries that the BRI is a plan to dominate Asia, warning of what some analysts have called a “String of Pearls” geo-economic strategy whereby China creates unsustainable debt burdens for its Indian Ocean neighbors in order to seize control of regional choke points.

  • In particular, New Delhi has long been unsettled by China’s decades-long embrace of its traditional rival, Pakistan.

belt_road

 

Prelims link

  1. What is BRI?
  2. Objective behind it
  3. Important locations related to this
  4. Malacca straits

Mains link

Impact of this project on India’s interests