The United States has revived the two major infrastructure projects in south and southeast Asia in a move that could potentially act as a counter to China’s ambitious project Belt and Road initiative. India would play a vital role in the U.S. project.
Donald Trump’s administration has resuscitated the ‘New Silk Road’ initiative, which was first announced by then U.S. Secretary Hilary Clinton back in July 2011, during a speech in Chennai. The Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor would link the south and southeast Asia.
A brief description of the two projects was made available during the administration’s annual budget on Tuesday, which indicated that the ‘New Silk Road’ would be a public-private initiative in which India will be playing an very important role.
The budgetary request of its south and central Asia will support the two initiatives.
The New Silk Road (NSR) focused on Afghanistan and its neighbors, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia.
The project will be leveraged through side-by-side collaboration with regional countries, other bilateral donors, development banks and with the help of private sector.
It said "the importance of...the NSR grows" as the transition in Afghanistan continues and the US "strives to help the Afghan people succeed and stand on their own."
The NSR refers to suite of joint investment projects and regional trade blocs that have the potential to bring economic growth and stability to Central Asia.
James McBride of the Council on Foreign Relations said: "Following the surge of 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan in 2009, which President Barack Obama's administration had hoped would lay the groundwork for complete withdrawal a few years later, Washington began to lay out a strategy for supporting these initiatives through diplomatic means."
During her visit to India, Clinton had said: "Turkmen gas fields could help meet both Pakistan's and India's growing energy needs and provide significant transit revenues for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tajik cotton could be turned into Indian linens. Furniture and fruit from Afghanistan could find its way to the markets of Astana or Mumbai and beyond."
But the project was put on a hold during Barack Obama’s second term when John Kerry occupied the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department.
The China bureau chief of The Washington Post, Simon Denyer wrote in a column that Clinton’s idea never got off the ground and the Obama administration was criticized by the experts for responding negatively to China-backed The New Development Bank.
Through the Belt and Road initiative, China is aiming to link itself with European and African markets through Asian countries and Indian Ocean. India opposes the project as it illegally runs through Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a $46 billion project that links China’s Xinkiang region to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. The project is solely funded by the Chinese government and the port could be used as a naval outpost for the Chinese military.