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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/26/17

China and India torn between silk roads and cocked guns

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From Asia Times

The current stand-off at Doklam, or Donglang, is little more than a sideshow in the bigger picture as South Asia's tectonic plates shift in a direction that makes New Delhi's resistance to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) look increasingly futile.

PM Narendra Modi shakes hands with China's Prez Xi Jinping
PM Narendra Modi shakes hands with China's Prez Xi Jinping
(Image by YouTube, Channel: The Times of India)
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So, once again it's down to a face-off in the Himalayas. Beijing builds a road in the disputed territory of Doklam (if you're Indian) or Donglang (if you're Chinese), in the tri-junction of Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, and all hell breaks loose... Or does it?

The Global Times blames it on an upsurge of Hindu nationalist fervor, but selected Indian officials prefer to privilege ongoing quiet diplomacy. After all, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana last month, they struck a gentleman's agreement; this dispute is not supposed to escalate, and there's got to be a mutually face-saving solution.

The tri-junction drama is actually a minor tremor in the much larger picture of the ongoing geopolitical tectonic shift in Eurasia. The major subplot occurs in the conjunction between the inexorable momentum of the New Silk Roads, aka China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's push, these past nine years, to assert itself as a major naval power in the Indian Ocean.

In a nutshell, India could not but be deeply disturbed by China becoming a decisive front row player across South Asia -- including in that Maritime Silk Road superhighway, the Indian Ocean.

The first-ever railway in Tibet, opened 11 years ago, links Lhasa with Xining, in northwest China. This railway will inevitably proceed all the way to Kathmandu, and assuming an OK from New Delhi -- not on the cards for the time being -- to north India as well. The key element of the New Silk Roads is Eurasian connectivity. And Beijing is the super-connector, not Delhi, with the scale and scope of BRI implying at least US$1 trillion in short-term investment alone.

When India looks around, to its east or to its west, what it sees is China connecting everything from Dhaka in Bangladesh to Bandar Abbas in Iran.

We're talking about the interpenetration of the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor; the China-Indian Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean Sea Blue Economic Passage; the China-Pakistan Corridor (CPEC); and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC). To call all this an orgy of connectivity is an understatement.

Enter "BRICS-Plus"

Hindu nationalism qualifies South Asia and the Indian Ocean as an indisputable sphere of influence for Indian civilization -- and one not that dissimilar to China's in relation to the South China Sea. Borders are scrutinized to the millimeter, especially now that the success of BRI is at stake.

The Doklam/Donglang stand-off pales, however, in comparison with the real danger zone. New Delhi argues that CPEC will be transiting an illegal territory, described in India as "Pak-occupied Kashmir."

South Asia happens to be all for BRI -- with the wary self-exception of India. New Delhi refused to attend the recent BRI forum in Beijing, issuing an official statement: "No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity."

New Delhi's boycott actually betrays the fact it has seen the writing on the wall. Pakistan is destined to "link together a series of Eurasian economic blocs," including the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). And this connectivity feast will also boost the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), which, crucially, both India and Pakistan have just joined.

The following proposal, from the chief economist of the Eurasian Development Bank, offers immense food for thought: the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) should be enlarged to a BRICS+ or BRICS++. Beijing enthusiastically agrees -- it has, in fact, proposed its own "BRICS-Plus" idea to unite various BRI partners. Pakistan, as host of the CPEC connectivity corridor, would certainly be in line for "BRICS-Plus" membership.

So we have China and India as members of BRICS (including the bloc's New Development Bank), the SCO, the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and of the G-20, and India and Pakistan as members of the SCO. And then we have all three nations as members of a future BRICS-Plus. It all points towards interpenetration, inter-connectivity and advanced Eurasian integration.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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