India has decided to partner up with Japan, USA and Australia to establish a joint regional infrastructural scheme as an alternative to China’s multi-billion dollar OBOR project. OBOR stands for China’s One Belt and One Road project which according to Australian Financial Review has the motive to spread China’s influence worldwide. According to Australian Financial Review, their aim is not to restrict China’s infrastructure but they wish to build a more strategic and economically viable road or rail line as opposed to an economically unviable port built by China.
Considered to be a very ambitious project, President Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Rod initiative focuses on improving connectivity, network and harmony amongst Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe with vast logistics, and transport networks using airports, roads, railway tracks, pipelines and transactional electric grids and even fibre optics. This project is viewed as Beijing’s pervasive attempt to increase its own global clout. At an earlier point, this plan had included around 65 countries which would account for one-third of global GDP and over 60 percent of the world’s population as stated by Oxford Economics. The Chinese president had promoted the initiative extensively and had pledged $124 billion for funding the plan. Apparently, local Chinese governments as well as state and private firms have rushed to offer support to the Central Government as well. Also, in January, Beijing outlined its aims to extend the initiative to Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming. This expansion would be named as Polar Silk Road.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is the agreement between the aforementioned four countries, was devised a decade ago but it collapsed soon enough. USA and its allies including India has been suspicious of the OBOR for quite a long time and identified it as a threat as it symbolized Beijing’s growing influence across the world. India was more worried about China and Pakistan’s relations which could potentially prove to be harmful for India. India was the first country to protest against the OBOR because a part of that route would essentially pass through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. After the recent news of the security pact between the four countries, sources say that apparently the Chinese president Xi Jinping feels threatened.
The plan still remains to be unnamed and unofficial, but we can be almost assured that it is soon to be executed. The plan is most likely to be announced during Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to the United States in this month. In 2017, India, USA, Japan and Australia had held their first official-level talks with their primal objective to keep the Indo-Pacific region ‘free and open’ in order to keep China’s extremely aggressive behaviour in the region at bay.
On the other hand, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday said that China is one of Australia’s largest trading partners. According to her, OBOR was the only option by which nations could receive funds for necessary infrastructure.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshijide Suga, when asked at a news conference about the four-way cooperation, said that the four countries often exchanged views on this matter and is most likely to take action shortly. Japan also has intensions of using its official high development assistance to promote a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ including ‘high quality infrastructure’. The Indo-Pacific strategy has been endorsed by Washington and has also been perceived as a counter to OBOR.
Safe to say that we are looking forward to the Australian Prime Minister’s visit to USA and to see what becomes of this issue and if any step is taken, how China would retaliate. This issue is one of the most intriguing and subtly controversial ones.