India is starting to latch onto the need to forge diplomatic relationships with other countries beyond simple exchange of embassies. However, in the two months of rest between PM Modi’s globe trotting, China formed or reinforced relationship with 28 countries:
- May: E U; Japan; Belarus; India; Ireland; Vietnam; Brazil; Colombia, Peru, Chile.
- June: Pakistan, Senegal; French Polynesia; Angola; Sri Lanka; Georgia; Myanmar, Maldives; Uzbekistan; Australia; Czech Republic; Poland; Belgium; USA; Brazil; France.
Some of these were when senior foreign politicians visited China, others when senior Chinese politicians visits abroad.
In 2014, China wooed 167 nations – http://chindia-alert.org/2014/12/31/chinese-diplomacy-2014/ and over 100 in 2013 – http://chindia-alert.org/2013/12/31/who-did-china-woo-in-2013/. So far 62 in 2015. Someone in the higher eschelons of Chnese government must have read and espouse Dale Carnegie’s book!
“Less than two months after returning from a journey that took him to China, South Korea and Mongolia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins another whirlwind overseas tour on Monday in which he is slated to visit five Central Asian countries, attend two multilateral summits in Russia and talk about issues ranging from trade to yoga to terrorism.
In a series of short trips, Mr. Modi will touch down in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, covering a cluster of strategically-positioned, resource-rich nations not far from India’s borders where China has established robust trade and investment ties. In between, he’ll visit Russia for the annual Brics summit.
Mr. Modi’s main focus is going to be energy: Turkmenistan’s natural gas reserves, for instance, and Kazakhstan’s oil and uranium. In recent years, India’s plans to invest in Kazakhstan’s oil projects have been waylaid by proposals from China, which has a major presence in the country’s oil and gas production.
Efforts to ramp-up the flow of these resources to India have also been complicated by the region’s security risks and geopolitics. A long-pending project with Turkmenistan, for instance, involves constructing a gas pipeline from that country over Taliban-hit Afghanistan and across India’s rival neighbor Pakistan, to India.
The Indian government is looking to kickstart work on the pipeline. In April, during a visit by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, Turkmenistan pledged to begin construction of it this year, India said. Ahead of Mr. Modi’s departure, Navtej Sarna, an Indian official, said on Friday that the government “will have to explore how we can move this project forward very quickly,” though he didn’t elaborate on how much progress Mr. Modi and his team were expected to make.
It’s not just the pipeline. Mr. Modi is hoping to push other infrastructure projects too that would connect Central Asia to India – regions that are not far apart on the map but have remained inadequately linked by roads, railways and ports, diminishing opportunities for trade and investment.
A North-South transport corridor that would help move cargo through a more straightforward and cheaper route between Russia and Central Asia on the one hand and India on the other has been in the offing for years. While some infrastructure has been built, big gaps remain. Mr. Modi is hoping to recruit more partners to help fill them.
One crucial link country in this plan is Iran, which has been off limits because of Western sanctions aimed at driving Tehran to end its nuclear program. As Iran and its U.S.-led opponents moved toward a deal this year that would end the deadlock, India in May sought to reinvigorate a port project in Iran’s eastern Chabahar region. Once completed, the port would become a central part of the planned corridor.
These questions of connectivity are important for India’s trade prospects, but they also have a geopolitical significance. China has in recent months stepped up its diplomatic outreach for its new “Silk Road” belt connecting it to Central Asia and Europe. On a visit to Islamabad in April, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a $46 billion economic corridor that would cut across Pakistan and a disputed territory governed by Pakistan that India also claims. Indian officials have objected to the initiative, both publicly and in meetings with Chinese officials.
At the same time, Mr. Modi is looking to forge closer economic ties with China. This week, he will meet Chinese leaders during the Brics summit in the Russian city of Ufa, where the leaders will discuss, among other regional and global issues, their recently-formed bank. The New Development Bank as it is called is headquartered in Shanghai and will have an Indian banker as its first head. Mr. Modi will also participate in a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security grouping led by China and Russia, which India is likely to join shortly as a full member.”