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Modi’s tunnel lay at the root of Sino-Indian clash

SAM SPECIAL-ENG-17-10-2020

Over the years, China has made great efforts to improve and develop its relations with India. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor was proposed even before the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As India has always been inactive, there has been little progress in the construction of this important corridor. 

In order to disrupt cooperation in East Asia, the United States asked Japan to get India involved, which was engaged in trade protectionism. And so "ASEAN + China, Japan, South Korea" was expanded to "ASEAN + China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India". But at the last minute, when it was time to sign the deal, India decided to withdraw. 

China cooperates with other countries in South Asia to build some commercial ports and wharves. India says that China is encircling it by pursuing the "chain of pearls" strategy. China proposed "BRI" development and could have ignored India's participation. But to allay India's doubts, it was invited to participate. However, India follows the United States and insists that "BRI" is "expansionism".

In fact, BRI development is mainly infrastructure construction for commercial intercourse. What is "BRI"? This concept comes from the "Silk Road" in ancient China, which means "trade and friendship", building bridges of friendship among countries by constructing trade routes. "Interconnection" is meant to realize "communication" among people of all countries through commercial "channels".

India is a country with serious infrastructure backwardness. If India cooperates with China, there are only advantages and no disadvantages. However, for so-called "strategic interests", India cooperated with Japan's so-called "high-quality" infrastructure, and gave the high-speed rail project to Japan at a high price. Actually, this is not a bad thing. India always harms others in international cooperation. Now, Japan has really learned.

However, recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly launched a "fishy operation" to open a "Himalayan tunnel" between India and China, which has shortened the distance from mainland India and Ladakh on the China-India border by about 50 km and 4 hours. The tunnel is located at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, passing through the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the main routes for the Indian Army to reach the border area. The tunnel is 9 km long, with a construction cost of 400 million US dollars and 10 years of construction. It is known as “the most audacious engineering feat”.

These days, the Indian media are blabbering about the tunnel. As we all know, not long ago, there was a fatal conflict between the Chinese and Indian troops in the western part of the China-India border. Was the conflict accidental? Judging from this tunnel, it is obviously not accidental. 

Let's think about what China has been doing and what India has been doing in the past 10 years. An Indian official said, "we are devoting all our efforts to developing border infrastructure. I've never seen development of roads, bridges and tunnels on such a large scale in the border areas.”

Here, I would like to forward a message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi: the construction of the “Belt and Road" initiated by China is for common prosperity and peace and they are commercial routes. It's a misunderstanding of the world that you're trying to develop military routes. But I firmly believe that India's military routes will eventually turn into commercial routes.

Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, senior fellow of the Charhar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian countries, former UN Senior Military Observer.