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With China Making The New Silk Route, How India Can Respond To Its Dominance

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The Belt And Road Initiative

China is on the verge of completing a grand project, that, in theory, revives the Silk Road that connected East Asia to West Asia and Europe. The main aim of this initiative is to develop infrastructure and make trade easier across this trans-continental route.

Even though there are serious doubts about the other strategic implications of this route and China’s dominance over it, it is also no lie that this will reduce the costs of manufacturing and transporting goods for the member countries. But, it is likely that Chinese products will dominate the outflow of goods. Moreover, investments in infrastructure will be another source for  China’s vast foreign-exchange reserves, most of which are currently in low-interest-bearing American government securities. This scepticism was made clear in the Belt and Road Forum by the Western and European nations.

However, India chose to skip the event and issued a rather powerful statement, which was contradictory to the usual language of Indian neutrality and officialdom. The report mentioned many criteria that infrastructure projects must meet, but the most significant statement was: “Connectivity projects must be pursued in a manner that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Therefore, the report implies that the Belt and Road projects do not meet the criteria.  The report is obviously referring to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a route that will connect the western provinces of China to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, thereby making it easier for these provinces to obtain oil from the deep-sea port. And this route passes right through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is majorly considered to be a disputed territory.

The New Silk Route. Source: YouTube

China’s response to these claims have been rather logical but they have stuck to their stance. The Chinese state media and government officials have asked India to join the initiative, as it will bring economic benefits to India. China has maintained a rather snobbish attitude towards India’s protests as they have not even regarded India’s concerns –   and perhaps rightly so, since China believes that India is not a big part of the grander picture of regional domination they envisioned.

China also claims that India is pushing itself into a corner by not attending the forum, as 57 other countries have sent their representatives. Moreover, most countries in the region have come to an agreement and are moving closer to China. China has tried to aggrandise this project as some kind of tool to help developing countries in Asia.

In a way, this has helped them to get international approval and even the support of the US President. Hence, India’s opposition to this has antagonised it, in the eyes of the US.

Evidently, India’s issuance of a strong statement wasn’t enough for China to consider India’s interests. So, what can India do?

India’s Response

It may not be widely known and is definitely not as popular as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – but India has its own cross continental projects, namely the International North South Transport Corridor, which connects India, Iran, Central Asia, West Asia and Russia, while conveniently skipping Pakistan on the way. The other project is the ITI-DKD-Y corridor – a railway route that will connect Bangladesh to Turkey.

The International North South Transport Corridor has already had a dry run and it is proven to have significantly reduced the cost of transport by $2500 for every 15 tonnes of goods transported. This initiative plans to utilise the Chabahar Port in Iran. India had already signed an agreement with Iran on this. The Bandar Abbas Port is another significant port on this route. These ports play an important role in linking sea routes with freight routes. Japan is also expected to join these infrastructure projects, besides also partnering with India in infrastructure development projects in East Africa.

The International North South Transport Corridor (Source: Nikkei Asian Review)

These projects show that India is not against international connectivity and the formation of trade routes, despite its strong opposition to the BRI. These projects may not be as big as the BRI, but they definitely serve as examples of India being a strong proponent of and seeking free trade.

Taking into account the complex political scene in India, it is unlikely that these projects will ever get the attention and support from the media and political parties to rival the BRI. But, it is clear that the BRI will be troublesome to India. If India does not join it, then it will be isolated. If it does join, it will have to agree with China.

So, the only plausible solution is to make something which can rival the BRI. The Indian government has not gone and announced a rival trans-continental route, because if it does make such a promise, it will require lots of funds which India may not be able to provide. This could be the reason why they are silently building routes, whenever they can – and that is about the only thing that India can do, right now.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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