OPINION: Strategic Significance of One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative
If one analyses the acclaimed CPEC project closely, it can be seen that it is a part of China’s magnificent concept of interlinking a vast array of countries through development of roads and infrastructure. Officially known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, this master plan comprises of a plethora of enterprises and proposals that the Chinese government plans on implementing across the continents of Asia and Africa.
This majestic vision encompasses a great area of land from the Baltics in Europe to China and from there to the Southeast Asia and beyond. If one traces it on the atlas it can be seen that this gigantic project and the subsequent construction of road traverses through all the countries in this plan. This ambitious plan is contingent upon the recreation of the physical road, which linked a great number of civilizations; known as the Silk Road. The Silk Road was a historic trade route, which commenced from China and extended towards the Europe, thereby linking various states in its course. The Silk Road was not akin to the Grand Turk Road (GT Road), which the visionary ruler of Sub-Continent, Sher Shah Suri built from Peshawar to the distant areas of Bengal and Kolkata. Conversely, the Silk Road was frequented by the caravans, traders and businessmen amidst the meandering routes from one caravanserai to another. There was no paved road but a series of convoluted and circular routes in the mountains, which the traders had to traverse. These routes not only saw the trading of various goods but were also highly instrumental in the flow of ideas, from one civilization to the other as well. Hence, reestablishing such a dynamic trade and traditional route would not only benefit the Chinese monetarily but also give them a significant sway over cultural and civilizational exchange taking place amidst these regions.
The powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) supervises the OBOR initiatives, as a part of the official Chinese policy, in association with a number of other governmental ministries. Due to the immense media fanfare and governmental projection, OBOR has developed colossal expectations from a number of quarters. It is termed as the next cataclysmic thing to be related with China’s global economic strategy. Importantly, OBOR is unlike other government or private sector program as it is not founded on governmental aid or private FDI, but is dependent on loan financing. This emphasizes the significance of this project, for creditors and debtors equally as they need to warily factor in the possible risks associated with the OBOR projects.
OBOR initiatives have already taken root in many parts of the world. A railway between the Chinese and Iranians has already completed and is operational. Moreover, other receivers of OBOR enterprises in Africa are Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Similarly, Eastern Europe countries present the furthermost geographic expanse of OBOR, and of China’s influence in traditionally more progressive and capitalist countries. Surprisingly, Poland, which is a developed capitalist state, has allowed China to build a railway project that was inaugurated in 2013. Likewise, Russia and China are also cooperating quite closely on the colossal Power of Siberia gas pipeline project. In the Far East an ambitious rail project was also recently finished in Indonesia. Expectedly, China has also won the practicability report for two other railway projects, which stipulates the construction of a high-speed rail from Mumbai to New Delhi and from New Delhi to Chennai. Therefore, it can be observed that Chinese influence is set to grow vis-à-vis the OBOR project.
China has amassed $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange and has the largest stash of foreign reserves in the world. Hence, in order to advance its strategic and financial interests, the Chinese state has decided to utilize these massive resources by building various infrastructural projects in the developed and the developing countries alike. The advent of such massive interconnectivity and trade corridors will not only benefit the Chinese but will also be instrumental for a number of other countries as well.
About the author: The writer is a law graduate from LUMS and is currently practicing civil litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org