Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only statesman in the world who has stood up to China and its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, a top United States expert on China said on Friday. The expert added that America has also remained silent on China's ambitious project till recently.
One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a development strategy proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which focuses on connectivity and cooperation between China and the rest of Eurasia, encompassing around 60 countries.
The Director of Center on Chinese Strategy at the prestigious think-tank Hudson Institute, Michael Pillsbury, during a Congressional hearing told lawmakers that PM Modi and his team have stood their ground against Xi's OBOR project.
India had boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) summit held in May in China, citing that the nation cannot accept a project which ignores its core concern over sovereignty and territorial integrity. China, through the project, is looking to link Xinjiang with Gwadar port through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The port is built in Balochistan and the route passes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region which India claims as its own.
"The only statesman in the world who stood up to it yet, is Prime Minister Modi. He and his team have been quite outspoken, partly because the Belt and Road Initiative includes violation of Indian sovereign claims," Mr Pillsbury said.
"But the US government, until now and this is a five-year-old initiative if you count the early part of it, has been silent," he said.
Pillsbury also praised the Donald Trump administration for its new Indo-Pacific strategy and said that in recent days the administration has mentioned a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region more than 50 times.
"The Chinese have already attacked this. They don't like it," said Mr Pillsbury. The former Pentagon official is considered an authority on China-related issues.
"The Indians, fairly recently, were joking about we want to make the Indian Ocean the Indian Ocean, by which they meant the purchase of several billion dollars worth of American PA aircraft, which have weapon systems in the back that can sink ships, frankly, and other improvements including maritime situational awareness and a big new center in Delhi where the Indians can keep track of both blue holes and grey holes going through the Indian Ocean," the expert said, according to PTI reports.
"The Chinese are very angry about this. They have criticised the Obama administration for its effort to, as they say, boost India, to a higher rank order in comprehensive power than the Chinese believe India deserves," the top American expert on China said in response to a question.
While Senator Ed Markey present at the Congressional meeting said that China's Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to position China as the uncontested leading power in Asia "may further coerce" and bully its neighbours through loans they cannot repay.
Pillsbury, to Markey's statement added by saying that the Chinese are offering low-interest loans to countries that cannot afford it.
"We already saw the example of Sri Lanka, which fell behind in its payments and then was the subject of coercion that if you transfer the main port here in Sri Lanka to Chinese control, we will forgive the debt. The Sri Lankans did it," he said.
Markey said that China, through its flagship initiative, is challenging the underpinnings of the global order that has brought peace and prosperity
Mr Markey said, "China is challenging the international system elsewhere as well. It was constructed in violation of international law, military bases on artificial islands and disputed areas of the South China Sea."