India, perhaps for the first time, has voiced its concerns about the possibility of projects under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being put to “dual use”. This essentially means using the projects for military purposes apart from their stated objective of creating infrastructure and boosting connectivity in the region and beyond.
Sources said on Thursday that New Delhi believes that many of the infrastructure projects being undertaken by China under BRI have “dual use”. Citing the building of the Gwadar port in Pakistan by the Chinese as one such example of dual use, sources said the laying of fibre optics and construction of roads were other instances.
While dual use is of primary concern for India, there are other reasons why India has misgivings about BRI according to sources. And this is with regard to the international rule and regulations that Beijing is seeking to change with regard to the execution of projects under BRI.
“Our concern is that after 70 years of independence and with our industry having adjusted to rules and procedures that are international, now we have a situation where there’s an attempt to create an entirely different set of rules on the ground,” said sources.
This is being done by changing the technical specifications required or the customs requirements in many of the countries (who are part of BRI) where there are weak administrations,” said sources. This change of rules would also mean that India would not be able to bid for project in other countries, said sources.
The concerns India has voiced about the BRI have come just months ahead of the second BRI Forum meet to be held next year. India has boycotted the first one held in May 2017 in Beijing with its stated position that “connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality”.
Further, New Delhi had said that such projects must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities and have transparent assessment of project costs among other things.
Unhappy with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is part of BRI and cuts through PoK, New Delhi had also demanded that “connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
New Delhi’s renewed concerns about BRI come at a time when India-China relations are back on track after the Doklam face-off last year. “We have come back on the normal track. Our political ties are restored and the situation on the India-China border is peaceful,” said sources.
The two sides also hope to see a second informal Summit between the Indian PM and Chinese President Xi Jinping post the parliamentary elections in India.
On the issue of the huge trade deficit, sources said there is some forward movement with regard to market access for Indian goods. However the real proof of the pudding will be in the lifting of trade barriers by China, said sources. “They have to walk the talk,” sources added.
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