China keen to link Silk Road plans with India's 'Mausam'

06 Apr 2015


Beijing is trying to convince india on the need to coordinate its ambitious Maritime Silk Road project with India's `Mausam' and `Spice Route' projects, so as to derive common benefits, even as the two countries continue to be at odds over China's assertiveness over its South China Sea maritime rights and Indian initiatives in the Indian Ocean.

China's move, which comes ahead of this week's annual defence dialogue, aims both at addressing India's strategic concerns and bringing about a change in its perspective on China's intentions.

The move also follows Beijing's realisation that it needs India's cooperation to strengthen its economic and political dialogue with South Asian countries like Sri Lanka.

"China is ready to work with South Asian countries, including India and Sri Lanka, to strengthen policy communication, identify the meeting point of their development strategies, explore effective ways of mutually beneficial cooperation and common benefit of the region, countries and the people," PTI quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as saying.

China is looking to step up interaction with India to identify the meeting point for their strategic interests in South Asia, especially the Indian Ocean region, ahead of the talks.

The defence dialogue, due to be held in Beijing on 8-9 April, would cover a wide range of measures to step up cooperation between the defence forces of the two countries. Defence secretary RK Mathur will lead the Indian defence delegation at the talks.

China's ambassador to India Le Yucheng had recently commented that China wanted to have communication with India to link the 'Belt and Road' initiatives with New Delhi's 'Spice Route' and 'Mausam' projects.

At the recently concluded session of China's National People's Congress, Chinese leaders had declared that the focus of the country's diplomacy during 2015 will be on the `One Belt and One Road Initiative (BRI)'.

The initiative is in line with a proposal made by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2013 for the revival of the ancient land and sea routes linking China with Europe on which silk, tea and other products were traded.

The land route through Central Asia, West Asia and the Gulf had linked China's eastern coast with ports on the South China Sea, the Malacca Straits, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean with Europe.

The revival plan involves the establishment of transportation, energy and communication networks along with associated trade facilitation, currency exchange and financial infrastructure. It also aims at promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Also, last month, China had got India's industry association, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to endorse its Maritime Silk Road project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too appears to have conveyed his willingness to expand economic and commercial ties with China even though he had taken a more firm position on the security front, especially on the Indian Ocean engagement.

Perhaps there could be trade-offs that India may explore. India is building the Chahbahar port on the Iranian coast, which will give it access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This would enable India to be a major player in the overland Silk Route as well.

For China, the Silk Road initiative is a response to a containment strategy pursued by the US in league with Japan and the Asean countries.

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