Nepal officially inked the One Belt One Belt (OBOR) deal with China on Friday leaving India as the only South-Asian country not to be involved in the Asian superpower’s ambitious project. The deal, which was signed in Kathmandu, would allow development of cross-border connectivity and more. With the exception of Bhutan, which has no diplomatic ties with China, every other South Asian country has signed into OBOR. Heads of state of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar and high-level delegations from Bangladesh and Nepal will be attending the two-day Belt and Road Forum in China.
So what exactly is OBOR?
Touted as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project, the One Belt One Road initiative focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation amount Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe. The emphasis is on enhancing land as well as maritime routes. The policy is significant for China since it aims to boost domestic growth in the country. Experts have noted OBOR is also a part of China’s strategy for economic diplomacy. Considering China’s exclusion from G7, OBOR policy might just provide China an opportunity to continue its economic development.
Why is India opposed to OBOR?
The main reason behind India’s opposition towards the policy is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a part of OBOR. Recent Chinese reports claim that following the launch of CPEC in Pakistan, the country has received investments worth more than $46 billion. “We are all for promoting connectivity… but on the OBOR, our position is that since the so-called CPEC forms a part of OBOR, and it passes through Indian territory, that is where our difficulty lies,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Gopal Baglay had said earlier this week. Citing sovereignty issues, India has raised objections over CPEC projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). China, however, has not tried to attenuate India’s concerns. “The CPEC is a flagship project, but all countries in South Asia have now confirmed participation in the Belt and Road Forum and are making use of the initiative,” Wang Dehua, Director, Institute for South and Central Asia Studies in Shanghai told Indian Express.
Belt and Road Forum?
Beijing will host the two-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) starting May 14 facilitating high-level delegations talks among leaders, including 29 Heads of State, on OBOR. India is yet to finalise its attendance at the forum. China Foreign Ministry spokesperson some Indian scholars would be participating in relevant activities during the Belt and Road Forum.
Nepal in, India absent: What does this mean for India?
Nepal and India have sustained good bilateral ties. However, with China entering the equation, India might just have a hard time in keeping it’s status intact. Chinese foreign policy experts have noted that Nepal’s inclusion in OBOR may force India to join the initiative or face exclusion. Hu Shisheng, Director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told The Indian Express: “If India does not participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, something all her neighbours are positive about, then the neighbours will have cause to complain. This is not constructive for India and will reduce its appeal in the region. The neighbours may ask questions like why is India not involved?”