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India's boycott of OROB summit: No lost opportunity for India but rather a huge loss for China
India boycotted the May 14-15 OROB summit held at Beijing, although it was attended by most of the nations from Eurasia. India and Bhutan are the two countries from South Asia which didn't attend the summit.

While Bhutan doesn't have any diplomatic ties with China, and hence didn't attend, India gave it a miss in view of sovereignty concerns related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a part of OROB.

Immediately, Chinese and Pakistani media started articulating that India with its absence had lost an opportunity of gaining economic advantage from the project of the century (as per Chinese claims). Some Indian newspapers also through their editorials criticised India's decision of boycotting OROB citing it as a lost opportunity. So, the question is, whether India's decision was right or wrong? Did India really lose an opportunity here? Let's examine a few facts in pursuit of truth.

But before that, let's understand what OROB project is? Well, it's China's ambitious road infrastructure project in global context which could make it an economic super power replacing USA. The proposed budget of the project is around one trillion dollars (with an initial budget of 124 billion dollars) that will be spent on developing infrastructure in all countries of Eurasia to revolutionise global trade. However, will it succeed or not, we will discuss later. But, let's first discuss India's concern.

Frankly speaking, India shouldn't have had a problem in associating with any global infrastructure venture, but then, India can't compromise on its sovereignty. CPEC is running through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is legally an integral part of India. That's why, India can't associate with any venture that compromises its sovereignty.

Did India lose an opportunity here?

Not at all. Rather, any such venture that does not include India is almost destined to end up a failure, as India is one of the biggest markets in the region. Then, India has also been investing heavily on development of infrastructure in all its neighbouring countries except Pakistan. India has very good bilateral trade ties with many countries including those from the East and the Middle-East apart from Europe and America. Thus, technically India hasn't lost anything by boycotting OROB, but rather, China would lose heavily in the long-run due to India's boycott of OROB.

Now, you will ask immediately, how?

OK, let me explain. Sri Lanka, which attended the summit, backed India on the boycott citing the importance of sovereignty. This backing came despite China approving a 24 billion dollar loan to Sri Lanka which is already struggling to repay its earlier 8 billion dollar loan.

Almost all SAARC countries are against Pakistan, and China giving priority to Pakistan over India has cast a lot of doubts. The European Union (EU) which was also part of the summit immediately refused to endorse Chinese President Xi Jinping's trade statement and bid to lead a global infrastructure revolution saying that his statement didn't include commitments to social and environmental sustainability and transparency.

Then, many Western experts have too questioned the robustness of the Chinese economy to sustain the committed long-term finance. The point is that there is nothing transparent in Communist China and mere lip service is not enough to convince the experts.

Moreover, some have also raised concerns over how poor countries of South Asia and East Asia would be able repay the huge amounts lent by China is shape of loans. The point to be understood is that China is not doing charity, its providing loans. That's why, many are of the opinion that in case these small nations aren't able to repay these loans, China may start treating these countries as its colonies. The bottom line is, Chinese statements lack credibility. Besides, how can China be trusted which has only two trusted allies, one is the rogue nation, North Korea, and the other; the international cradle of terror, Pakistan.

Would Sino-Indian partnership help China on OROB?

I will answer it in two parts. Firstly, why CPEC would be a failure?

Apart from India's objection to CPEC, there is uprising going on in Balochistan province of Pakistan – a region majority of the CPEC passes through. Currently, Baloch rebels are engaged is a violent battle demanding autonomy, to put a check on which around 12000 Pakistani Army men have been deployed to provide protection to some 10000 Chinese workers of the CPEC.

Furthermore, as per reports, many in Pakistan are raising questions on the terms of agreement of the CPEC. Another problem is the ISIS, which is fast losing ground in Syria and Iraq. Thus, their next destination is only one place and that is Pakistan, as the country offers perfect environment to nurture radical ideologies. Once ISIS starts operating from Pakistan, the CPEC would have to be junked. That's why many Chinese financial experts have suggested China not to invest further in the CPEC as all those investments are likely to sink.

Had China understood India's concern and either scraped or delayed the CPEC project till the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, it would have gained both India's trust and cooperation. India's association means enhancement of credibility in the eyes of rest of the world. A partnership with India is a long-term guarantee of sustainability of financing while also ensuring that environmental and social issues wouldn't be raised. India's deliberation on loan giving would also be more trustworthy. Moreover, an Indian open market is more lucrative than a Chinese closed market.

That's why I say that India's boycott of the OROB summit is not significant from the Indian perspective. It is up to China now to introspect how India's association could have added value to its most ambitious project of the century. For this, it first needs to win India's trust. You can't progress by suppressing your immediate competitor. You should make your competitor an ally for mutual benefit. Further, India is not the India of 1962 to whom you can dictate terms. Rather, you should be cordial towards India and address all its concerns and reduce trust deficits through proper measures.

When rest of the world is looking up to India, China wouldn't gain anything by looking away.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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