The Silk Road Economic Belt and Road Initiative (SOBI) is an international inter-regional free trade and cooperation strategy adopted by China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Bangladesh. The plan was designed by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton during their visit to China in 1995. Since then, the Belt and Road Initiative have received a lot of criticism from both the Western and Chinese governments, leading some experts to label it as nothing more than another plan for China to extend its power across Asia. However, proponents of this policy believe that the Belt and Road Initiative have the potential to unite the different nations of the world and help bring an end to decades of division.
So, what exactly are the Belt and Road? The so-called “economic belt” or “greater economic connectivity” between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East will be primarily comprised of a large network of high-quality, low-cost investments in infrastructure projects stretching from the Middle East to Central and South America. It aims to reduce costs and increase regional productivity by eliminating barriers to trade and investment. These projects are aimed at boosting economic growth through increased integration of people, technology, and products. The project will also unify the various communities and cultures of the region, creating a more secure, stable, and open international environment Silk Road economic belt.
There are two faces of the Belt and Road. One is a development strategy that brings together the various economies of the participants in the scheme. The second is an integrated political and economic approach to the development of connectivity. Both share similar objectives, but there are differences in detail. The countries in the Middle East are expected to achieve rapid economic development, while South and Central Asian countries are interested in political stability and greater global connectivity.
In addition to political leadership, there is also the role of technocratic leaders and bureaucratic apparatchik leaders from developing countries. It is notable that while western countries see the Belt and Road as a significant development strategy, there is a lack of enthusiasm in Asia for such an approach. One major reason is the view that it will increase political power by Western countries exercising control over the direction of the Belt and Road. The perception is that such a development will be unhelpful in promoting unity, territorial integrity, and economic prosperity in Asia-Pacific countries.
Even with this skepticism, the Belt and Road projects enjoy the support of a broad range of global stakeholders, including the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and many other countries. However, this has been possible only due to the enormous credibility of China as a rising global power. Furthermore, the growing popularity of President Obama and his government have created a positive atmosphere for the prospects of these projects. It has been widely accepted that Obama’s “asia-Pacific” policy is based on the principle of” peacefully and reciprocally giving aid to all those who ask for it”.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and Road project encompass a broad area of cooperation in terms of transport infrastructure, industrial production, energy, agriculture, medicine, and commercialization. It also covers different aspects of trade. In fact, it is believed that this plan could be the largest trading area in the world. Besides, the main participants in the Silk Road Economic Belt and Road are China, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Pakistan. Given this, it is anticipated that the economies of each country will converge gradually, leading to a considerable boost in the regional value chain.
Silk Road Economic Belt and Road projects are viewed as an important element in the global efforts to strengthen the global economy. Many people see it as a crucial element in ensuring international peace and stability. The projects like the New Silk Road Economic Project, or the RMET, are seen as vital in boosting the connectivity of Asia with the rest of the world. However, these projects come with a variety of inherent and potential risks. This is why the success of the projects depends primarily on its ability to overcome such negative impacts.
For the Silk Road Economic Belt and Road project, Tajikistan is working on building a gas pipeline. Iran is also working on developing its own oil refinery project. While all these projects are essential to meet the criteria of the OBOR, they also pose some of the greatest risks. These include sabotage and civil unrest. A lot more effort is needed to ensure that the projects do not face any sort of risks that can undermine its entire success.