Japan to propose OBOR-like project with India, US to counter China

Japan is set to propose a strategic dialogue with India, the United States and Australia to build ports and high-speed road networks across Asia to Africa, a plan aimed at countering China’s cross-continent “Belt and Road” plan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to propose the idea of the four-party dialogue to US President Donald Trump on November 6, foreign minister Taro Kono was quoted as saying by the Nikkei business daily on Thursday.

The Japanese proposal will be significant for India. Building cross-border infrastructure with friendly countries could help New Delhi blunt the Chinese initiative which it sees as an influence-securing project that also runs through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

Kono’s comments also came a day after Hindustan Times reported that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested that Washington and New Delhi together build roads and ports across South Asia to Asia-Pacific in response to China’s move.

Tillerson, who was in New Delhi on Thursday, pushed for building of roads across Bangladesh to Afghanistan so that even Pakistan could be asked to participate in the project.

“We are in an era when Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture,” Kono was quoted as saying. “To maintain free and open ocean, the economy and security will surely be on the table.”

Kono said he exchanged his thoughts on the four-nation dialogue with Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop back in August. He said he had also offered the foreign ministers of Britain and France collaborative roles in the partnership.

The proposal is for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the land and sea to Southeast, South and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East and Africa, Kono told Nikkei.

The “Belt and Road” plan, a “Silk Road”-like initiative, is a vehicle for China to take a greater role on the international stage by funding and building global transport and trade links in more than 60 countries across three continents.

A brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the project was included in the ruling Communist Party’s constitution this week, giving it greater policy heft and added pressure to succeed.

Hindustan Times (With Reuters input)