A Silk Road economic Belt is a proposed trade and political development model stretching from western China through the Middle East and northern Africa to the Indian Ocean. This proposal is part of China’s plan to transform its economy. In some ways this model already exists within the bounds of the Global South. However, it has been lacking in the area of Afghanistan. That is likely to change with the renewed American effort to train and aid Afghan security forces.
The model consists of ten countries along the ancient trade routes. These are: Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and India. Each of these nations has its own Silk Road economic plan to boost economic growth. It also would include measures to ensure that currencies trade according to their true value.
For now, China’s Silk Road economic belt still focuses on re-establishing trade routes with Pakistan along the old silk route. The Pakistani government welcomes such initiatives as it views them as an investment for its fledgling economy. The re-export of Chinese goods to Pakistan is a boon for farmers in the country. The resulting goods include high-tech equipment. Such goods have always been a staple of trade relations between India and China.
There is no guarantee that any of these nations will become fully integrated into the Chinese economic system anytime soon. Some believe that integration will take even longer, perhaps even a decade or two. This is due to different philosophies regarding how to develop trade relations. Some nations would like to maintain closer economic ties while others, such as Pakistan, would prefer to eventually go their separate ways.
For now, most of the focus lays in India. With China’s growing influence in India, New Delhi has been feverishly pursuing its economic development goals on the back of China. While New Delhi may not be willing to completely abandon its close trading relationship with Pakistan, it is doing its best to ensure that the latter does not take advantage of Indian sharing of the economic benefits of the Silk Road Economic Belt. In fact, India is offering extensive and supportive trade terms to its former colony Silk Road economic belt.
China’s efforts in Pakistan are being viewed as a show of support for Islamabad’s effort to forge ahead with economic reforms. However, there is no guarantee that the economic belt will usher in a smoother road to economic connectivity. Some experts believe that Pakistan will continue to find it difficult to attract international investment due to its numerous security problems. Moreover, China’s renewed effort to promote economic linkages with Pakistan could backfire as Islamabad will realize that it needs India’s support to advance its own agenda.
For now, both the US and India remain focused on promoting trade liberalization in the South Asian nation. The economic Silk Road economic belt is seen as an initial step toward reviving bilateral trade. However, such a move will only strengthen Pakistan’s hand in negotiating bilateral trade deals with its neighbors as well as international trade issues such as its trade deficit.
It is true that China’s renewed economic promise to Pakistan is a big boost for Pakistan’s economy. However, the country must not expect that prosperity would come without any reciprocal benefit from India. At the moment, there is no room for pre-conquest, or for Pakistan to treat India superior to all other South Asian countries. Both India and China have important goals in bringing stability and economic progress to South Asia and they have made tremendous strides in achieving these goals so far. In fact, the Belt and Road are just a part of their overall strategy to strengthen bilateral ties, to promote economic globalization, to mediate in dispute resolution, and to counterbalance US military dominance in the region.