The idea was first mooted in 1999 but hasn’t made much progress, especially compared to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the OBOR initiative. India has objected to the project due to the Chinese presence in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, a disputed territory between the countries.
Responding to a query on India’s participation in the May 14 Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the Chinese foreign minister had welcomed the Indian business community to take part in the summit and the CPEC-OBOR initiative.
“India is taking part in this initiative in its own way. For example, we have the BCIM economic corridor… India is part of that with Bangladesh and Myanmar. The four countries are ready to advance the economic corridor within the framework of Belt and Road,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
It’s been more than two years since the last meeting of the BCIM took place in Bangladesh. Next week’s meeting is basically to finalize the report of the Joint Study Group (JSG). But progress won’t be easy.
Sources in the external affairs ministry say that declaring BCIM as part of the larger OBOR initiative, which also includes the controversial CPEC, is problematic. All four countries are stakeholders in the project and it shouldn’t be appropriated by just one country.
“India can’t join the CPEC due to our sovereignty over Kashmir despite commercial opportunities involved,” Jagannath Panda, Senior Fellow, at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses noted.
India should also not lose sight of the larger picture, especially where China with unmatched resources and power at its disposal, is pursuing an agenda of Asian economic integration, Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi noted. The BCIM fits into that paradigm where New Delhi can cooperate with China.
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