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JMI organizes workshop on implications of BRI for India and the neighbourhood
China's steep rise in military might and economic power over the last few decades is being seen both as an opportunity and challenge by many countries including India. Speculations as well as well-informed opinions are increasingly occupying public and intellectual spaces like never before.

A one-way workshop on "China's Belt and Road Initiative: Implications for India and the Neighbourhood" under UGC's China Study Programme at a packed conference room at MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) Tuesday, 9 October, 2018 can be seen in this backdrop, against an academic and intellectual perspective though.

The daylong workshop, spread over five sessions, dwelt on multiple aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China especially in the context of its implications for India and the neighborhood. Scholars felt that the rise of China was not devoid of challenges, difficulties, tensions and traps. Speaking at a session on "China and its Outreach", Dr Avinash Godbole of O.P. Jindal Global University raised concerns over China's flouting the [sea] rules in Indonesia's maritime bases.

Saheli Chattaraj, an Assistant Professor at JMI, traced the origin of BRI to ancient times stating that the One Belt One Road (OBOR), later renamed Belt and Road Initiative, was actually intended to revive the 'Ancient Asian Silk Road' which had three connections: One in North China, another in Central China and, the last in Southern China. By connecting to the West, East and Central regions, it aims to have better trade, economy and, to get more money, viewed she.

In his special lecture on "BRI and the Implications of the CPEC", Jayadeva Ranade, a Chinese expert and president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, said that through BRI, which combines the maritime and land connectivity, China wants to 'expand its power'. He then outlined the reasons why China wanted to do so. For him 'BRI' was 'not just for one economic incentive', rather, it included different 'strategic and economic initiatives' which, according to a Peking University Professor, said Ranade, 'will transform China into a big power'. Another scholar, said he, sees it as 'pioneering global influence'. He also spoke about problems China may face in Pakistan and other countries due to cultural and other differences.

In his paper on "BRI and the GCC countries" Dr Mohammad Sohrab looked at the relationship between China and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries within the framework of 'historical unity and epistemological syncretism' and said that owing to the desire on both sides the relationship has 'grown manifold'. He further said that that relationship was based on 'respect and trust' and 'full recognition of each other's sovereignty'. On the question of the Uighur minorities in Xinxiang in the northern Henan province of China, he said that the Uighur issue was a different kind of problem for which the GCC has a different take and it has raised objections on relevant platforms.

According to Professor Bali Deepak, not China's 'ambitions' but its 'compulsions' were guiding the BRI. He also talked about the 'traps for China'. Prof Swaran Singh, Prof G M Shah, Dr Jabin Jacob, Dr Shiraz Sheikh, Rukmani Gupta and others presented their papers.  

Prof Madhu Bhalla, an expert in Chinese security and foreign policy, gave a lecture on "Is the BRI the New Geopolitical Game?" Earlier, Prof Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, delivered the inaugural address.

In her concluding remarks, Prof Rashmi Doraiswamy, officiating director of the Academy of International Studies, hoped that the proceedings and deliberations of the workshop will help develop informed knowledge of the issues and generate interest among scholars and students to study China and its relations with the neighbouring countries for better academic contribution from different angles.    

(Author is a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia.)

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