New Delhi: US President Joe Biden has proposed an infrastructure development project led by democratic countries to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The suggestion of an alternative project came up during a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
“One of the things I suggested to do is — we talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in in the Belt and Road Initiative. And I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that, in fact, need help,” a White House statement quoted Biden as telling reporters after the talks.
The statement, accessed here, said that the two leaders agreed to work closely together on shared foreign policy priorities, including China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative since 2013 is essentially aimed at increasing Beijing’s influence abroad by financing and building infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa.
Of late, it has come under scrutiny and faced criticism as a “debt trap” for its record of saddling poor countries with debt.
Some of India’s immediate neighbours – Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – have received funding from China.
India has refused to join the BRI.
“Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities,” India had said in 2017, rejecting an invitation to join the BRI.
Another concern for India is the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, (PoK).
China has invested over $60 billion in the CPEC.
According to US-based think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, some 140 countries worldwide have joined the initiative, including US allies and partners such as Greece, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Through the infrastructure project, China is both meeting the needs of many in the developing world and filling a void left by the United States, its allies, and the multilateral development banks, the think tanks said in a report this month.
The Biden administration has stepped up efforts to rally US allies and partners to counter China, which Washington believes has become more assertive, and is seeking to undermine international rules and democratic values.
Biden held the virtual summit with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Yoshihide Sugo of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia on March 12 during which they committed to the Indo-Pacific, a “region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratica-values, and unconstrained by coercion.”