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Cooperation best route for Beijing and Delhi over maritime objectives

(Global Times)    09:51, March 27, 2015

Ever since the "One Belt and One Road" initiative was mapped out by Chinese President Xi Jinping, India has been showing vacillation and hesitations over whether to join the project.

Granted, there is no easy way of persuading a rising power in China's neighborhood to recognize that its mega project is not seeking for influence or striving for hegemony. Yet the recent remark that "the One Belt and One Road initiatives can also be linked with India's Spice Route and Mausam projects," by Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng might provide a blueprint for cooperation that could create tangible benefits for both sides and help India to set suspicions aside.

The Mausam project was launched in June 2014, aimed at re-establishing India's ancient maritime routes with its ancient trade partners in and along the Indian Ocean. Similarly, the "Spice Route of India" refers to the ancient network of sea routes that linked Asia, Europe and Africa.

These projects bring to light that India will focus on its maritime strategy in the future, which will go hand in hand with its large scale of infrastructure construction.

Recently, a possible "Indo-Pacific Arc" has drawn a great deal of attention from regional and international observers. It is an old concept brought up by Australians, but has been heatedly discussed in India in recent years. The objective of the strategy is to link the Indian Ocean with the Western Pacific Ocean.

India wants to achieve a dominant strategic role in the Indian Ocean, and protect its interests in the area. Both the Mausam project and the Spice Route are part of the maritime strategy. And the recent outreach of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Indian Ocean states of Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka is widely regarded as a move to boost India's maritime influence.

Besides, New Delhi is also planning to develop some new projects in the ocean, including Project Seabird, an ambitious naval infrastructure program.

Under such circumstances, there is a prevailing belief that such Indian projects are adopted to counter China's influence in the region, especially the 21st century maritime Silk Roadentailed in its "One Belt and One Road" initiative.

However, we should not see it that way. Though India is ambivalent about China's initiatives, its strategy is far from confronting China. India clearly understands that if it turns against Beijing's invitation to jointly build the "One Belt and One Road" program, it will be more difficult to restore the connection with China in the future.

The best option here is to put aside disputes, and to resolve divergences through cooperation, instead of keeping raising eyebrows at each other and endlessly debating the challenges.

For instance, if shipping from both sides could go through each other's waters, India could transport mineral resources and oil to the South China Sea and the Far East more easily. Some even suggest it is possible for India to ship its oil to Northeast China while China transmits electricity to the country through its western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as an exchange.

China's strategies are not about political expansion, but about investment and development. There is no reason for China and India to confront each other.

Therefore, the two should not only skillfully overcome historical obstacles through negotiations with mutual understanding and mutual accommodation, but also establish cooperation in every aspect, including linking each other's separate strategies together. China should send messages to India that "China will give sufficient consideration to the reasonable interests and concerns of all parties, adhere to open regionalism, and will not target any third party," as Le suggested.

If the suggestion is to be put into practice, the ideal goal of reducing our suspicions of each other, and developing together, is within the realm of possibility.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Li Aixin based on an interview with Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for the Southern and Central Asian Studies, the Shanghai Municipal Center for International Studies.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Du Mingming,Yao Chun)

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