Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Brazil
China’s mammoth Silk Route plan would dynamise half the world. Will India accept the invitation?
Old Silk Route
Distance: Over 4,000 miles, stretching from China to the Mediterranean Sea
The route linked ancient lands of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Bactria and Rome
Combining extant, ancient trade routes, its golden age was from 2nd century BC till the 13th century
Got its name from trade in Chinese silk, though cotton and spices from India and precious stones and other items from Persia, Arabia and Europe were also sold
New Silk Route
Nearly 20 countries—China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Kenya—over three continents—are part of proposed project. The number may go up.
China’s proposed Silk Route would uplink connectivity within China to the region and beyond and also give a boost to Chinese industry and investment in different parts of the world
Build and develop ports and naval bases to ensure the important sea lanes carrying oil, gas and other minerals as well as Chinese goods from the mainland remain unhindered and without trouble
By developing infrastructure in different countries, present the soft power of China and raise stakes of others to minimise confrontation with Beijing
Lastly, it would allow China to develop a parallel trading network—a huge overland and maritime arc encircling the whole of Asia and running into Europe—that would challenge the ones by a US-led West
Shrouded in myths and legends, the ancient ‘Silk Route’ had for centuries been the main conduit for trade and cultural interaction between East and West, connecting old civilisations, encouraging merchants, scholars, pilgrims and nomads to travel to newer realms. Now, over 800 years after its decline, thanks mainly to a Chinese initiative, global attention is recast on the famed route. Countries from Malaysia and India, Kazakhstan to Germany, Kenya to Italy and Vietnam to Netherlands are busy debating whether the proposed project gives more muscle to China’s global power or helps in making it play a more responsible international role. Touted exclusively as a commercial venture and an enabler for connectivity, the Chinese proposal is now being studied by strategists, policy-makers and diplomats in various world capitals.