On 14 May China organised the Belt and Road Forum – an important period in the country’s history considering it represents a significant shift in its foreign policy. Through this forum China has signaled its intentions to come out and connect globally. However, the forum was not attended by India, a notable name in this regard considering the fact that it does not always see eye to eye with China. The said event was attended by senior officers and heads of state from around 36 countries but the Ministry of External Affairs, India, had already provided an official statement regarding its presence at the forum on 13 May itself.
Collaboration with Japan
India has now started to collaborate with Japan and build infrastructural projects in locations such as Africa, Iran, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. This has been regarded as a direct response to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) programme, which is said to be a huge and ambitious infrastructure-based one that happens to be unilateral in nature. This project aims to connect China to Europe and Africa. Xi Jinping, the President of China, launched the project with a significant amount of fanfare. India has cited security and strategic reasons for its stance vis-à-vis the project.
China trying to woo India
China, meanwhile, seems to be very eager to make India a part of this initiative, and has been trying to persuade its southwestern neighbour from much before the launch event got underway. Both the Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, and his deputy have been making extra efforts to lure India to be a part of the enterprise. Zhaohui feels that OBOR would provide India and China the ideal opportunity – and some new ones – for cooperating bilaterally. India has however made clear its reservations regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).
India is also planning to develop roads in its neighbouring countries in order to make its position in South Asia stronger than before. With this step it also looks to arrest the growing influence that China has built in the region. National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is looking to carry out these projects in spite of the fact that it has come up short in meeting these targets at home. It is also looking to generate funds from its overseas projects so that it can finish its projects in India itself. Nitin Gadkari, the Union Transport Minister of India, says that NHAI is getting lots of offers from abroad.
Helping Sri Lanka
Even though India did not participate in OBOR launch event, it had decided to help Sri Lanka pull off successfully its Buddhist International Vesak Day celebrations. The event celebrated on May 11-12 was also attended by Narendra Modi. Vesak Day festivities are organised in order to celebrate the birth, death, and enlightenment of Lord Buddha. During the period the Prime Minister of India visited Colombo apart from Dickoya and Kandy in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. At Kandy, Modi visited the relic named Temple of Tooth, the most important Buddhist artifact in Sri Lanka.