OBOR takes off What it means for India


China is hosting the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing from today, a meeting aimed at propelling itself into a new growth orbit, taking along 100-plus stakeholders.

China will host the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) over two days starting May 14 in Beijing where high-level delegations, including 29 Heads of State, will gather to discuss President Xi Jingping’s ambitious strategy and accelerate the pace of its implementation. China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) strategy envisions an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to foster trade and enter new markets.

The strategy aims to connect Asia, Europe and Africa, particularly the developing East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic regions at the other. The Belt refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt which comprises three overland routes: connecting China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe; linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The Road refers to the 21st century Maritime Silk Road designed to push trade from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

While the BRF will host 29 Heads of State and over 100 ministerial-level officials to increase international cooperation, the OBOR policy itself is aimed at boosting domestic growth in China which has slipped in recent years. Experts maintain that OBOR is China’s blueprint for economic diplomacy, and its strategy to begin a second phase of ‘opening up’. Experts also believe China felt “isolated”, considering it is not involved with G7, and is limited to the BRICS countries. They say China needed another window to continue its economic expansion, and OBOR fits the bill.

This year, China cut its GDP growth target to 6.5%, the lowest in 25 years. With a global slowdown, China needed a new model of development to maintain its spectacular economic success story. OBOR envisions largescale infrastructure creation in China and OBOR linked countries, which the government hopes will keep the economy ticking. There are two versions of OBOR — domestic and international. Experts pin the slowdown on changes in exports, investments and local consumption. 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. 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?