• Sanskriti IAS - अखिल मूर्ति के निर्देशन में

Counter the Belt and Road initiative

  • 29th June, 2022

(Mains GS 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.)

Context:

  • Recently, the G7 allies unveiled the ambitious Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), announcing the collective mobilisation of $600 billion by 2027 to deliver “game-changing” and “transparent” infrastructure projects to developing and middle-income countries.

 Counter BRI:

  • The PGII is being seen as the G7’s counter to China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build connectivity, infrastructure, and trade projects in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
  • The West has been sceptical of the BRI, since it was launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, as it was considered to be part of China’s larger strategy to increase geopolitical influence in Asia and other developing countries. 
  • The U.S., along with G7 partners the U.K., Japan, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the European Union (EU), had in 2021 announced the launch of the Build Back Better World (B3W) with the aim of narrowing the $40 trillion infrastructure gap in the developing world.

About he PGII:

  • The factsheet put out by the White House described the PGII as a “values-driven, high-impact, and transparent infrastructure partnership to meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low and middle-income countries and support the United States’ and its allies’ economic and national security interests”. 
  • The G7 members aim to collectively mobilise $600 billion by 2027 to invest in sustainable and quality infrastructure projects in developing countries, including India, and strengthen global supply chains. 
  • Mr. Biden announced the country’s pledge to channel $200 billion in grants, public financing, and private capital over the next five years for the PGII. 
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared Europe’s pledge of mobilising 300 billion euros for the partnership over the same period. 

About the Belt and Road Initiative:

  • The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the One Belt One Road Initiative, is the most emblematic of China’s economic and industrial might, as of its ambitions for global, political and strategic influence. 
  • BRI partnerships encompass infrastructure investments in the construction, transport, aviation, telecommunications and energy sectors stretching across many countries.
  • The BRI seems to be above all, a response to slowing domestic economic growth, accentuated by a slump in Chinese exports to developed countries following the 2007-08 economic meltdown.

Projects under PGII:

  • All PGII projects will be driven by “four priority pillars that will define the second half of the 21st century”. 
  • First, the G7 grouping aims to tackle the climate crisis and ensure global energy security through clean energy supply chains. 
  • Second, the projects will focus on bolstering digital information and communications technology (ICT) networks facilitating technologies such as 5G and 6G internet connectivity and cybersecurity. 
  • Third, the projects aim to advance gender equality and equity, and lastly, to build and upgrade global health infrastructure.

Comparing to China’s BRI:

  • The G7 has specifically touted the PGII as a values-based plan to help underfunded low and middle-income countries meet their infrastructure needs. 
  • PGII has laid focus on climate action and clean energy, while China has built large coal-fired plants under BRI along with solar, hydro, and wind energy projects. 
  • While the G7 has pledged $600 billion by 2027, Morgan and Stanly estimate that China’s overall funding for BRI by that time could reach $1.2 to 1.3 trillion dollars with the actual funding being higher. 
  • Under the PGII, large private capital will be also mobilised while China’s BRI is majorly state-funded.
  • Besides, the BRI was also launched at a time when China’s local construction firms were short of projects in developed Chinese provinces and further a large number of Chinese workers were employed in BRI projects; for instance 1.82 lakh were working in Africa by late 2019.
  • While G7 leaders emphasised ‘transparency’ as the cornerstone of PGII projects, the BRI has faced criticism for making countries sign confidential tenders for extending massive loans, leaving countries indebted to China. 
  • For instance, after the BRI’s flagship $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan owes Beijing a large proportion of its foreign debt.
  • China builds BRI’s projects by extending large, low-interest loans to countries that have to usually be paid over 10 years. There have been cases of ​​debt-saddled countries failing to repay on time. 
  • Sri Lanka, for instance, had to cede its key Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease to China; meanwhile, PGII aims to build projects through grants and investments.

Conclusion:

  • A PGII project has already been announced in India but India had opted out of China’s BRI, being wary of Beijing’s aim to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean Region by roping in Pakistan as a major BRI recipient.
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