The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the Indo-Naga Enigma – Eurasia Review

By Augustin R.

There is a growing body of work examining the pros, cons and consequences of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and given China’s global footprint, the BRI is expected to have a significant impact on a large and geopolitically important region.

President Xi Jinping proposed the concept of a “Silk Road Economic Belt” in Kazakhstan (September 7, 2013), and the following month he proposed the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” in Indonesia (October 3, 2013). The above two proposals are collectively known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or formerly One Belt, One Road (一带 一路 (yīdài yīlù) in Chinese). The BRI represents an important strategic shift in China’s foreign policy and stands as one of the most ambitious economic initiatives in the world, aiming to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via ground networks and maritime areas, thereby improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth. . In addition, on January 26, 2018, the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China released a white paper titled China’s Arctic Policy, in which it pledges to actively participate in Arctic affairs. The document outlines China’s Arctic strategy as well as its ambition to build a “Polar Silk Road” as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

While all South Asian countries have expressed “support or participation” for the BRI, India and Bhutan remain the only holdouts. India’s opposition stems from its antagonistic relationship with China, which is also marked by suspicion and competition rather than cooperation. As a result, India’s bet is that it diplomatically “downplayed” China’s BRI and refused to sign a Belt and Road Memorandum of Understanding; However, the country is unmistakably a player in the BRI, albeit through agents, actively participating in the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Beijing. Shanghai. The AIIB and NDB alignment measures also serve as a useful hedge for the extent of Chinese involvement in infrastructure development and business investment in India.

The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIMEC) was proposed by China at a sub-regional forum in 1999 to connect the economically backward regions of southwest China and the northeast region from India (NER) via the country of Myanmar and Bangladesh. Despite important high-level intergovernmental discussions on BCIMEC that took place in 2013, 2014 and 2015, no concrete steps have been taken to complete the project to date, mainly due to opposition from the ‘India.

For China, the Belt and Road Initiative focuses on building “smooth, safe and efficient transport routes connecting major seaports” along the Belt and Road. Accordingly, he sees the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and BCIMEC as important economic corridors “closely linked” to the BRI, and he stressed the importance of greater cooperation and progress. India’s bet is that it has officially refused to recognize or sign the BRI MoU because, according to Delhi’s logic, recognizing the BRI implies recognizing the CPEC, which crosses a disputed territory under Pakistani control but claimed by the India, which leads to the disputed territories being recognized as Pakistani or Chinese. However, India considers the BCIMEC project to predate the BRI and has no reservations about participating in the stand-alone BCIMEC project if it is not part of the BRI. The absence of the BCIMEC project from the list of BRI projects presented to 37 heads of state and government at the 2nd BRI forum in 2019 can be interpreted as a “victory” for Indian diplomacy, but India is still hesitant to grant access to its competing geopolitical rivals. to the NER because India fears it will increase China’s geopolitical influence and, in the worst-case scenario, support the “Naga movement” as it did in the 1960s, potentially stifling the India through the ‘chicken neck corridor’.

The Naga political issue is a legacy of British colonial rule which has the potential to hamper the implementation of policy in the NER of India and the northwest region of Myanmar. He had seen the international participation of the United States (early 1950s), China (early 1960s), undivided Pakistan (Pakistan and Bangladesh, early 1960s) and the United Kingdom (1960s), with formal and informal government ties within various organizations that are not completely disconnected even today. Thus, the signing of the Indo-Naga “historical” framework in 2015 had given great hope to the NER; however, negotiations reached an impasse in late 2019 due to growing mistrust between the Government of India (GoI), represented by RN Ravi, and the Nagalim Nationalist Council (NSCN). Following RN Ravi’s dismissal as government interlocutor in September 2021, AK Mishra, a former India Intelligence Bureau officer, was appointed as a new interlocutor representing the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). After the replacement, a new round of negotiations between the GoI and the NSCN began on September 20, after the deadlock was broken. A frantic negotiation between the Nagas and India is taking place in Delhi at the time of writing this perspective. Given that the “historic” Indo-Naga Framework Agreement of 2015 has yet to be implemented, the question now is whether the Indo-Naga political conundrum will find an acceptable solution. Surprisingly, India and the Nagas have been trying to solve this political problem since 1947.

The NER, no doubt, occupies a strategic position on a logistics and supply chain that can control the flow of resources along international land trade routes for both the BRI and BCIMEC, or even the Indian Policy Act East. (AEP); however, the security situation in the NER remains extremely precarious. Despite promising infrastructure investments and increased connectivity of land markets if fully implemented, India has recently failed to demonstrate genuine political will to address India’s most serious political issue. the region by attempting to present it as an internal public order issue, rather than appointing a political negotiator to lead the negotiation, thus presenting it as an issue requiring political will. One observation is that if the Indian government considers the Naga political issue as an internal public order issue, India would not have signed the Indo-Naga framework agreement in 2015. In particular, the Naga political issue has taken on a regional strategic dimension. , especially in India, Myanmar and China.

The simple fact is that India is not powerful enough to respond on its own to the BIS in the global community, as it is now a truly global enterprise; and as India and China become more dependent on each other – with China moving towards high-tech and smart manufacturing, India has the potential to become the global hub for manufactures at low and medium cost. A peaceful political resolution of the Indo-Naga political issue is necessary for the BCIMEC, or even the ASP of India, to be successfully implemented. Solving the problem will not only increase confidence in India’s relationship with the Nagas, but also give a new direction for the NER to thrive, resulting in a very balanced relationship between India, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Projects such as the BRI, BCIMEC and the Indian AEP can attract massive investment and infrastructure development, providing India, especially the NER, with better land access to China and its immediate neighbors.

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