OBOR: A tool to counter Indo-Pacific Strategy
The Belt and Road initiative is a symbolic term to re-establish the Silk Route Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Route, initiated by China. It is basically aimed at enhancing the connectivity and interaction between Asia, Africa and Europe. This massive region covers two thirds of the world population generate one third of the world's gross domestic products.
When the Obama administration declared the Asia-Pacific strategy in 2011, China responded with the most significant strategic move and they took the One Belt One Road (OBOR) or Belt and Road Initiative which is President Xi's most ambitious foreign and economic initiative. It targets to strengthen the economic leadership of Beijing as well as China through the massive and gigantic program of infrastructure building throughout the neighbouring region of China.
The experts of international politics see this move through the geopolitical lens and they often address this OBOR initiative as the attempt by China to acquire the political leverage over its neighbours. This is an obvious fact that this initiative is a part of the strategic plan of China but the question arises why and how China has taken such initiative to secure their interest.
OBOR is primarily dictated by the significant geostrategic and geopolitical motto. Some elements certainly give us the concept of their large as well as broad geostrategic aim by using OBOR initiative. The economic corridor of China-Pakistan is an excellent example where both China and Pakistan are deeply engaged and interested to move this plan ahead. This corridor is a flagship project which is directly related to the OBOR. This project will connect the capital of Xinjiang province, Kashgar, with the port of Gwadar located in the province of Baluchistan of Pakistan. This connection has got immense geostrategic significance.
The Gwadar port is geographically proximate to the Persian Gulf which can be used as the energy supplying route for China. China will not have to use the Strait of Malacca anymore as they can do so with OBOR initiative. Apart from using this Gwadar port as a commercial purpose, it has the luxury to accommodate aircraft carriers and submarines as well. This increases the significance of Gwadar port to the next level which has been used by China to pursue their geostrategic interest. The military perspective is the hidden reason to use this port and get connected to this region directly from the Chinese territory. OBOR initiative will surely be used as the strategic tool to counter the Indo-Pacific strategy taken by Donald Trump.
When Trump came into power and rejected the Trans Pacific Partnership in January of 2017, Chinese leadership then grabbed the opportunity to advance their OBOR much effectively. Even the prominent world leaders suggested the Trump administration that the rejection of TPP would damage the reputation of the USA among its regional allies which could be used by China to emerge as the most powerful regional hegemon.
China has become a peer competitor for the USA and we know that the established hegemon like the USA never wants to see the rise of any close challenger which can pose a threat to its current hegemonic position in the international order. Because of the unstoppable rise by China, USA has been very conscious about this inevitable uprising where they have been planning to contain China in every possible way they can. USA followed some strategies to make a plan to contain China when Barack Obama was in power. The Obama administration declared a strategy which we get to know in the term of 'Asia Pacific' strategy.
The Asia Pacific strategy was the top most priority for the Obama administration--where it used to cover the entire Asia Pacific region but China was indirectly at the centre of this plan. The Asia-Pacific region was a top priority of US security policy and this was being said by the former President of the USA Barack Obama back in 2011 in a speech to the Australian Parliament. When Donald Trump came in power, he commenced the Indo-Pacific strategy which was the Asia-Pacific strategy during the regime of Barack Obama. Trump was narrowing down the strategy of Asia-Pacific and he solely gave his focus on China.
In the Indo-Pacific strategy, we can get to see that the region covers a large area starting from the West Coast of India to the Western shores of the United States of America. This region is very significant as it represents the most populous area with the immense political and geostrategic significance. Trump's strategy defines the modification of Asia-Pacific strategy by completely focusing on China. Indian Ocean is a salient part of this new strategy taken by the Trump administration as China has always been trying to ensure their safe passage through the Indian Ocean which is their gateway to get connected with the rest of the world and China never wants to see any threat for not getting their access into the Indian Ocean.
This Indo-Pacific strategy is a clear representation of USA's power politics where it wants to maintain unipolar world order which has is threatened. So the OBOR initiative which is a strategic tool to counter the Asia-Pacific Strategy does have an immense significance to establish China as an economic super power who will dictate the international order in the upcoming days.
The writer is a student of the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka