A healthy battle is fomenting between China and India. Towards the end of the year 2017, China revealed two more proposals under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The first was an extension of CPEC to Afghanistan and second, the linking of Chabahar port in Iran with Gwadar port in Pakistan. While China was busy making news with the above-projects, India was silently working on the NSTC project, better known as the North-South Transportation Corridor. The big fix here, however, is the risk of duplication of partnership for countries, including the Gulf.
Formerly known as the One Belt and One Road initiative, the BRI seeks to link China with the Central and Southeast Asia by land, and Europe and the Middle East by sea. India’s NSTC, on the other hand, seeks to build connections with Europe via Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East through road, ship and rail networks. The linkage to Gulf via the Caspian Sea is also expected to shorten the route by half while reducing costs by 30 percent.
Over the next 10 years, China is looking forward to the usage of BRI and multiplying the USD 31 billion trade pact with Iran by 20. India too is making heavy investments in projects to develop the road-rail networks to link Chabahar with Afghanistan. The Chabahar port will later be linked to the NSTC. Currently, Bandar Abbas is linked to Europe, Russia and Eurasia, via the NSTC.
Duplication of Partnerships May Fuel Competition Between China and India
While China through the BRI is promoting bilateral ties with nations, India, on the other hand, is working towards multilateral relations through the NSTC. However, the duplication of partnerships by countries involved may result in a competition between China and India. For instance, Afghanistan, which is already linked to the NSTC project may become a controversial subject since it is also being pursued by the Chinese for BRI.
Another point that may lead to friction is the political issues that may arise from China’s attempts to link the Chabahar Port with Gwadar Port. The Chabahar Port in Iran is aided by India while the Gwadar Port in Pakistan is aided by China.
What remains to be seen is now the participation of the United States in either of the projects. The US might turn down the opportunity to be a part of BRI, it is likely to not show interest in NSTC either. However, the investment of Iran in both projects may also be crucial in motivating the US to show interest.