Amb. TCA Rangachari and myself had two hectic days in Shanghai where we had meetings with prominent scholars like Drs. Sun Yang, Ma Jiali, Chen Kaiyan, Wang Duha and Guo Shuyong among others. We also addressed gatherings at the Academy of World Watch, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Shanghai International Studies University.
We mostly spoke about how irrelevant the Maritime Silk Route and New Silk Road (see map 2) were to India as both effectively bypassed India. We instead proposed a Southern Trans Asia Railway (STAR) proposal (see map 1) to link the Chinese and Indian rail network by joining Kunming and Calcutta - effectively giving life to the long discussed Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) link. This would integrate the Chinese, ASEAN and Indian markets where soon over 60% of the world's economic activity will be concentrated. There was a good deal of interest in this and I got the feeling that our diplomacy somehow misses the woods for the trees.
A couple of years ago I had made a presentation on this at Beijing at the China Academy of Social Sciences where it was well received. But Indian diplomacy is still driven by suspicions and we generally fear a greater engagement with the world around us. We keep raising questions about Chinese intentions with regard to things like Gwadar and Hambantota, sale of submarines to Bangladesh. Both Gwadar and Hambantota are economic disasters in the making, but China has the money to blow up, and both Sri Lanka and Pakistan will in the end left with picking up the tab at 8%. Militarily both ports are hardly a challenge to India in times of conflict and if the PLAN builds bases there, they can be destroyed in a matter of hours. The problem is that we are more often than not consumed by our irrational fears, partly felt here and mostly assiduously promoted by western thinktanks and media.