India ignores China’s OBOR, teams up with Japan for joint connectivity project with Africa

Even as tensions continue between India and China, with the two countries’ army facing each other at Doklam, attempts to extend international trade relations with foreign countries by the two arch rivals have also witnessed counter-attacks. While the Chinese government, in May this year, held a two day “One Belt, One Road” summit to strengthen trade relations with European and African nations, the crucial meeting was ignored by China’s Asian rivals India and Japan. With the trans-continent trade summit, China aimed to connect with more than 60 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa but India Japan and the USA countered the initiative which was proposed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. Days after the OBOR Summit was held in Beijing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). Teaming up with Japan, in a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the African Development Bank (AfDB) meet in Gandhinagar in May, India expressed his ambitions to integrate the economies of Asian countries with the African nations through AAGC.

The Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China have been facing each other, holding their respective posts at a distance of about 150 meters at the international border in Doklam. Although the border region has not witnessed any exchange of fire between India and China, the situation has further intensified with China refusing to go for any bilateral talks with India till the Indian Army leave the post and back up. Amid such tensions, India’s decision to ignore China’s OBOR and team up with Japan to extend trade relation with African countries plays a crucial role in the development of the trade-relation between the countries.

“One Belt, One Road” (OBOR)

Connecting with more than 60 across Asia, Europe and Africa, OBOR is one of the largest infrastructural projects and a network of land and sea routes. The primary objective of the Chinese President is to create a network of railways, roads, pipelines and grids, which will boost the development of China’s connectivity to the rest of the world. The two-day summit held in Beijing on May 14 and 15, witnessed the presence of more than twenty head of states and about 1,500 delegates from different countries. The initiative introduced by the Chinese government includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, with the collaboration of more than 40 other countries, amid a huge investment of $50 billion from Chinese companies for infrastructural projects.

Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)

Aiming to strengthen the growth and connectivity between Asia and Africa, India and Japan initiated the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), which primarily focuses on Development Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, Enhancing Skills, and People-to-People Partnership. Reportedly, China is Africa’s largest economic partner with a trade growth rate of 20 per cent per year since 2002 and AAGC initiative by China’s two Asian rivals is key for the trans-continent relation between the Asian and African countries.

Does AAGC counter China’s OBOR?

However, Indian experts believe that the two initiatives are completely different. As reported by The Economic Times, the former High Commissioner to South Africa and Kenya said that while Japan and India were individually associated with trades with Africa from long before, the introduction of AAGC will further strengthen the relation between the countries.

By: Priyam Mukhopadhyay

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