NEW DELHI (TIP): As Prime Minister Narendra Modi braces to firm up New Delhi’s bid to countervail Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, Beijing has now suggested that India’s own efforts to deepen engagements in the Indian Ocean and Central Asia could rather be linked to that of China.
“The One Belt One Road initiatives can also be linked with India’s ‘Spice Route’ and ‘Mausam’ projects, thus forming a new starting point and a new bright spot in China-India cooperation,” Le Yucheng, China’s Ambassador to India, said.
He was addressing journalists and foreign and strategic affairs analysts on the occasion of the Lunar New Year of China recently. His remark came just a few days ahead of Modi’s proposed visit to four Indian Ocean nations –Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Maldives – later this month.
The prime minister’s tour to the four nations is likely to give a give a fillip to “Project Mausam”, which is intended to boost New Delhi’s engagements with countries in the Indian Ocean, invoking India’s ancient maritime links with them. The initiative is ostensibly a bid to countervail China’s “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” project. New Delhi has also called for revival of the ancient “Spice Route”, which once linked southern India with Europe. Xi has been articulating the idea of a “21st century Maritime Silk Road” reviving economic connectivity between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and linking China’s coastline with south-east Asia, the Gulf and the eastern coast of Africa. He has also been proposing a “Silk Road Economic Belt” reviving the ancient link between China and the Mediterranean through Central Asia. Beijing’s new plan to spread its tentacles further in the Indian Ocean region and Central Asia caused unease in New Delhi, which is already wary of China’s strategic assets encircling India. Though Xi had elicited endorsements from Sri Lanka and Maldives to his “21st century Maritime Silk Road” plan just ahead of his last visit to India, Modi had remained non-committal on supporting the proposal.