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JANUARY 2016 ISSUE

Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Time for a Fitting Riposte
India has to diplomatically handle China’s aggressive expansion plans
 
Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)
By Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)

Geopolitics has been described as ‘the strategy for dominion of the world from a single centre of power’. In September 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled his concept of building a transcontinental Silk Road Economic Belt connecting rising China with economically developed Western Europe.

A month later, he expanded the construct by broaching the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), linking all of Asia, Europe and Africa into an overall grand plan with China as the hub, effectively the Eurasian centre of power. Collectively called the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), the ‘Belt’ comprises rail, road and pipeline corridors stretching through Central Asia and Russia, with one artery going through Mongolia and the other through Kazakhstan, both subsequently linking up with the Trans-Siberian Railway and going on to Moscow, Rotterdam and Venice.

The ‘Road’ is the maritime face, consisting of a network of ports and associated coastal infrastructure emanating from China’s Pacific Coast and stretching across South-East Asia, South Asia, the Persian Gulf, East Africa and the Mediterranean before going on to Rotterdam and Venice. Among the Indian Ocean ports talked of as nodes (the ‘String of Pearls’ or economic nodes, depending on which perspective is being discussed) are Sittwe/Kyaukphyu and the Coco Islands (Myanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Hambantota and Colombo (Sri Lanka), Marao Atoll (Maldives), Gwadar (Pakistan), Djibouti, Port Sudan (Sudan), Bagamayo (Tanzania) and Lamu (Kenya). China has till date not published any official map of the BRI and multiple maps exist in public domain, all based on how individual authors visualise the network shaping out.

The stated objective of the BRI is to “promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realise diversified, independent, sustainable and balanced development in these countries”. Although this appears to have an economic thrust, it would be naive to presume that there are no political and security dimensions. Security and economic development go hand in hand, neither can exist without the other.

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