With OBOR now in China constitution, rift with India could widen


In a reflection of how China’s leader Xi Jinping is personally pushing his pet One Belt, One Road (OBOR) global infrastructure initiative, the Communist Party of China (CPC) congress today passed an amendment to the party constitution to specifically mention the plan.

As the once-in-five-year congress concluded, the CPC amended the Constitution to enshrine Xi’s special status by including his eponymous ideological contribution, called “Xi Jinping Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, into the constitution. This elevates Xi’s status on a par with the CPC’s towering past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the only other leaders mentioned by name in the constitution.

The congress passed several other amendments to the constitution, and on the foreign policy front, updated the party charter to include some of Xi’s initiatives. It calls to “build a community with a shared future for mankind”, a formulation Xi has often articulated on his foreign tours, to “follow the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration”, and most importantly, to “pursue the Belt and Road Initiative”, as China calls the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan in English.

INDIA’s CONCERNS

India was the major lone absentee to Xi’s OBOR summit in May, and experts say his reiteration of the significance of the plan could widen an already sensitive rift with India on the issue amid other recent strains in ties.

India’s primary concern is that China has dubbed a “flagship” plan under OBOR a corridor through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India has also publicly criticised other aspects of OBOR as well, including a lack of transparency and the pushing of projects that leave “debt burdens” on recipient states.

CHINA’s GRAND STRATEGY

Explaining the significance of OBOR being included into the constitution, Chinese strategic expert Wang Dehua told India Today, “I think it is an important part of Xi Jinping’s vision. It is a grand strategy for China. The main idea is to build a world community of shared destiny. This community of destiny is a core meaning of OBOR. I think it tallies with the national interest of all countries.”

“We are patiently waiting for India to understand the significance of the OBOR,” he added. “In India, many people still have a Cold War mindset. They say that that OBOR is expanding China’s interests in South Asia. India’s ambiguous approach is because India hesitated to join or not join but I think joining is best choice for India,” he added, saying India had “one foot” in the project through the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) corridor which China considers a part of OBOR, although it predated the plan.

FLAGSHIP OF OBOR

China, however, has shown no inclination as yet towards addressing any of India’s primary concerns on CPEC. Moreover, China didn’t seek to consult India during the one-year period it was rolling out OBOR, and decided, despite India’s publicly articulated concerns on PoK projects, to not only include CPEC but to dub it “a flagship” of the plan, officials say.

India has also pointed out to China that it joined the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiative, which was formulated as a multilateral institution unlike OBOR, which is entirely China-led and hasn’t yet come up with a structured mechanism that allows participating countries to share a stake in the initiative.

India Today