China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a pet-project of Chinese President Xi Jinping is facing opposition in India’s immediate neighbourhood amid second BRI meeting scheduled in the month of April, as per the study carried out by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The BRI project is spread over 80 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, and the Arctic, with a clear aim to re-energise trade through investments in ports and power plants. The project costing 900 billion dollars will enhance China’s influence and is seen as a key to its global ambitions.
India has refused to participate in BRI indicating that sovereign issues affected by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
“The Ministry of External Affairs study said that “unacceptable conditions” imposed on countries is leading to a severe push back. Belt and Road Initiative was as much about China getting a foothold across the world, projecting itself globally, as it was shovelling excess Chinese capacity”, said a senior official.
“We are expecting that there will be a major tweaking of policy in the April BRI meeting,” the official added.
The first BRI meeting was held in May 2017. The study highlights that Pakistan abandoned the Diamer-Bhasha dam project because of unacceptable conditions of ownership and finance imposed by China. The BRI projects in Pakistan alone cost $62 billion. The Pakistani leadership is split and differences are manifesting in several forums, including Senate committee hearings.
The study presents another example of the Western Seti Hydropower project in Nepal which asked for a guarantee of 17% of the cost besides a sovereign guarantee since Beijing was not satisfied with the Nepal investment board leading to the cancellation of hydropower project by the KP Oli government.
The projects in Bangladesh are facing serious opposition as well. The China Harbour Engineering Company’s project was blacklisted for offering bribes to government officials in Bangladesh. The cost, especially of road contracts quoted by the Chinese are 5-10 times the cost in China and more than 10-15 times that in India. This along with wider conditions imposed by China is causing concern in Bangladesh. In Myanmar, too, BRI projects are being opposed vigorously, the study says.
Many experts questioned “whether China will provide additional loans to already cashed-strapped countries that are unable to repay the debts? Earlier, it was believed the BRI projects will make money, but many projects have turned out to be financially unviable. Importantly, since most of these countries do not export much to China, the option of paying back loans is very difficult.”
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