Managing Connectivity Conflict: EU-India Cooperation and China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Connectivity initiatives are the latest geopolitical tool for advancing influence in international relations and diplomacy. Against the backdrop of an emerging connectivity conflict, the responsibility is on likeminded countries and organizations to promote initiatives that embody transparency and universalism in connectivity projects and that benefit citizens in the long term. The EU and India are two important actors in this regard.
This paper analyzes the scope of cooperation in the field of connectivity between the EU and India, arguing that they are two important strategic poles of the current world order with shared interests. Europe and India are key actors of the western and non-western democratic liberal, both aiming to strengthen an “open, transparent and rules-based system of international politics and economics.” Realizing this potential requires candid and engaged strategic and economic exchange between the two sides. Responding to the need for both hard and soft infrastructure systems, many governments have factored connectivity as the lynchpin of their foreign policy. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is only one of these, but it is the most developed of these initiatives by far. It could become the arch of the 21st-century world order. What is clear, is that this Chinese initiative challenges the current open and transparent rules-based system of international politics and economics advanced in the 20th century. Seen as a “manifestation of China’s re-globalization ambitions,” the BRI raises expectations of economic and political opportunities at one level while inviting skepticism and doubt over its operational mode at another.
Set against this context, the United States, Japan, India, Australia and the European Union (EU) have started their own counter-initiatives to balance the Chinese outreach under the BRI.
By and large, these “likeminded” actors are yet to add real projects and funds to their proposed initiatives. Also lacking is a consensus on how to interrelate their connectivity propositions, which now largely run parallel at best and cross-purpose at worst. Obviously, there is dearth of substantive engagement about one another’s strategic thought. The Trump administration’s approach towards likeminded countries and its noncommittal approach towards Asia on global trade multilateralism have certainly not helped matters.
The EU and India are particularly affected by the ambitions of China’s BRI, as the PRC is enhancing its political and strategic influence in Europe and around India’s neighborhood. This provides strategic momentum and political imperative for the two sides to bind forces and promote sustainable connectivity as their overarching connectivity narrative. That means commercially viable and transparent, guaranteeing a level-playing field for businesses, a respect of labor rights and environmental standards, and avoiding financial dependencies. To deliver on-the-ground results, the EU and India can draw lessons from the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) as the approach to concrete projects. What should also be taken from the AAGC is its strength in adding interregional focus, explicating where the partners complement each other.
The Belt and Road Initiative 一 带 一 路
The Belt and Road Initiative is an incredibly ambitious plan that may potentially re-shape global trade. The ‘Belt’ aims to connect Chinese trade and production to Europe through Central Asia. […]
Between Scandals & Elections: Sino-Austrian Relations in the Era of Sharp Power
Introduction Li Zhanshu, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and the country’s top legislator, visited Austria in May 2019 during his tour through Europe. […]
Economic Dreams and Geopolitical Realities: How will the India-China-Russian Dynamic Unfold in Greater Central Asia?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Greater Central Asia (GCA) has undertaken various efforts to reshape the political and economic landscape of Asia. This has driven a process by […]
The Great Rejuvenation? China’s Search for a New ‘Global Order’
Executive Summary This Asia Paper explores how China, a ‘partial’ global power, can set the agenda and determine the rules in a global order dominated by a declining yet unyielding […]
China’s March West: Pitfalls and Challenges in Greater Central Asia
Central Asia constitutes a lynchpin for China’s Belt and Road ambitions. However, as Niklas Swanström and Pär Nyrén argue, Beijing also faces a number of challenges and pitfalls if Greater Central Asia […]
Sino-Nordic Relations: Opportunities and the Way Ahead
This report provides a study the relationships between the People’s Republic of China and the “Nordic” countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It will pay particular attention to the possibilities for joint Nordic regional cooperation to serve as basis for such relation. ISDP has assessed challenges and shortcomings to these relationships, and proposes a series of opportunities as to how China and the Nordic countries can expand upon beneficial mutual engagements whilst mitigating risks to core ideals and interests.