China says it will be better for India and Japan to link their Asia-Africa corridor with OBOR

China says it will be better for India and Japan to link their Asia-Africa corridor with OBOR

Beijing, August 3 ( China is not opposed to the Indo-Japanese Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) but would like it to be linked to its own One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, and that will be a sensible thing to do for India and Japan, writes Xiao Xin in Global Times.

“Some who seek to sow discord have described the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) – a connectivity project jointly forged by India and Japan – as an oppositional vision intended to counterbalance China’s One Belt One Road initiative. But the two countries (India and Japan) working on the alternative growth corridor should keep cool and position the AAGC as a complement to the wide-ranging B&R initiative,” Xiao wrote.

“This would make particular sense for India, which needs an overhaul of its infrastructure such as railways, highways and airports. Given this situation, India is believed to benefit much more from B&R infrastructure projects than the AAGC venture,” he argued pushing the case of OBOR.

Announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May this year during the African Development Bank meeting in Gandhinagar, India, the AAGC, essentially a maritime corridor, has been seen by some as a counterbalance to the B&R initiative.

The new venture, jointly led by India and Japan – two countries that have so far opted not to join the B&R initiative – sets out a vision for the better integration of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia with Africa and Oceania.

“That vision indicates an overlap between the AAGC and the B&R, and in turn invites controversy over the actual intentions behind the growth corridor as well as urges a rethink on the latecomer.”

“It goes without saying that India and Japan could feel free to embark on a new connectivity initiative and no one is begging them to join the B&R initiative. As long as the AAGC aims to embrace inclusive growth and promote joint prosperity, the corridor should be encouraged. But if India and Japan design the corridor to deliberately counterbalance China’s B&R, they should think twice before rushing to it because the route of the AAGC has an extensive geographic overlap with the route of the B&R initiative,” Xiao noted.

“That’s particularly the case, considering that China has already made huge commitments to developing Africa while the India-Japan partnership is only just taking shape.”

China is Africa’s top economic partner, with bilateral merchandise trade totaling $188 billion in 2015, more than triple the India-Africa trade figure, as per a new report by McKinsey & Company.

India is Africa’s second-biggest trade partner. Additionally, China has taken the lead in investing in Africa, providing aid and infrastructure financing to the continent, according to the report.

If the AAGC aims to squeeze out China’s Belt and Road  initiative instead of serving as a complement, it actually divides what’s supposed to be a united force to forge ahead with inclusive growth in dozens of countries and regions along the route of the B&R initiative.

India, for its part, should be particularly level-headed and guard against any over-assertive plans that may go awry.

The featured image at the top Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the Indo-Japense Asia-Africa Growth Corridor at Gandhingar, Gujarat )