06:06 GMT21 September 2020
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    The United States is considering reviving two major infrastructure projects in which India could play an important role, a measure that could potentially counter China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

    In its first annual budget proposals to the US Congress on Tuesday, the Donald Trump administration gave a brief outline of the New Silk Road (NSR) project focused on Afghanistan and its neighbors, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor (IPEC) linking South and Southeast Asia, raising hopes that the projects may be revived.

    Both projects were proposed in 2011 under then-State Secretary Hillary Clinton, but were not supported across Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Although the Indian Foreign Ministry spoke out for the initiatives, no real platform for cooperation was created.

    The proposal says that India would have a key role in the NSR, a public-private initiative. It said "the importance of … the NSR grows" as the transition in Afghanistan continues and the US "strives to help the Afghan people succeed and stand on their own."

    The State Department expects that the two infrastructure routes would connect Southeast Asia and South Asia. Both projects will be pushed through regional collaboration and financing by bilateral and multilateral donors along with private sector participation.

    Experts reached by Sputnik pointed to the fact that the new US presidential administration eyes reviving a project once pushed by Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival in the election.

    Aimed at countering China in the region, the initiative did not work out five years ago. However, now Washington seems to be serious, especially taking into account the implementation of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

    Washington’s attempts are aimed at "containing China," according to Tatyana Shaumyan, an expert at the Institute for Oriental Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    China’s new Silk Road is firing on all cylinders. India refused to participate in a recent One Belt One Road project in Beijing.

    The expert suggested that India is considering its own steps because it does not want to find itself on the sidelines of such an important geopolitical project.

    "I can’t rule out that India wants to use the US plan and participate in the initiative. The idea of a silk road in Asia without India is impossible. If the US is ready for this plan it should be aimed at supporting India and containing China," the expert told Sputnik China.

    She suggested that the US is likely to try to use the "Indian factor" against China.

    "India’s refusal to participate in the forum was politically motivated. It does not want to be involved in China-led projects. Possibly, in this situation, India will participate in US-backed initiatives. China is investing heavily in infrastructure and its influence in Asia is on the rise. Washington will try to find something to counter China," Shaumyan said.

    China’s One Belt One Road conception has prompted the US to revive a similar project, according to Liu Ying, a financial expert at the Renmin University of China.

    "This is the result of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which has gained global acclaim. On the other hand, Washington’s activity is related to protecting American influence in Asia," Liu said.

    At the same time, the expert stressed that the Chinese and American projects are not rivals and there is room for cooperation between Beijing and Washington.

    "US representatives attended the forum. Infrastructure and logistics development in Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia and US-Chinese cooperation within the One Belt One Road Initiative would serve the interests of both US and China," Liu said.

    India will support the US conception of a new Silk Road as a counterbalance to the economic corridor between western China and the Pakistani port of Gwadar, according to Andrei Volodin, an expert at the Institute for Modern Problems at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    At the same time, he expressed doubt that the US can gain significant political support from India.

    "India cannot implement an independent foreign policy towards China. It alternatively relies on Russia or the US in its game against China. To a certain extent, India’s stance is weak. From this point of view, India’s political support for the US may not be as strong as Washington expects," Volodin said.


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