Indian construction companies are seeing red over China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has political and economic concerns for India. While the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (C-Pak) that connects Chinese province of Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, has political ramifications, the other sections of OBOR, coming up in the neighbouring countries, are becoming a source of anxiety for the Indian industry.
Official sources said that Indian companies are unable to participate in the global projects as China is changing rules, regulations, and standards, making difficult to even to bid for tenders. “We fear that the Indian industry, that has travelled a long distance to compete with global standards, is being edged out in the neighbouring countries due to OBOR,” a source said.
Sources also said that OBOR should be transparent and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity and as far as C-Pak is concerned, it directly affects India’s sovereignty.
“We don’t have such concerns vis-a-vis OBOR, which is coming up in other neighbouring countries. But we see that China is adopting new norms and discarding global practices,” an official source said.
China has been introducing new specifications in the tendering process as well as customs and has been bringing in new algorithms, making it difficult for the Indian bidders to compete. One of the industry players said, on the condition of anonymity, that if China is playing such a game, even our government should have a quid pro quo approach. It should disallow all Chinese construction firms from participating in any Indian projects.
“During the bilateral meetings and in the World Economic Forum, our government representatives and corporates should take up the issue and amicably resolve the subject as this may have economic as well as diplomatic fallout for both the nations,” another company official said.
Sources said while India had red-flagged that project way back by refusing to participate, there were nurturers now across the globe, resonating India’s concerns.
The objective of the OBOR is to ‘facilititate connectivity’, including transport infrastructure for connecting all sub-regions in Asia and regions in Asia, Europe, and Africa as well as harmonising technical transport standards. It involves constructing a range of highways, railway lines, ports, industrial corridors, energy pipelines, and other infrastructure proposed and under implementation. Asked if there is a military aspect to these projects, official sources said while OBOR largely may be mere economic projects, it will have dual roles so to add up to China’s military ambitions.
Besides C-Pak, other major parts of the project in the region underway are the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar initiative. Also, most OBOR projects, led by Chinese entities, are linked to sourcing and contracts from the Chinese companies. Loans and investments come tied with procurement directives favouring these companies.
Sri Lanka, unable to repay its ballooning debt with China, handed over the Chinese-built port at Hambantota in a 99-year lease agreement last year. In India, Chinese companies have been participating to bag multi-crore orders, unless there are security concerns involved like Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project which is near sensitive security installations like Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command.
A leading construction company official said it is a positive thing that the government has shown concern over the issues affecting the Indian industry. China has introduced new specifications in the tendering process as well as customs and has been bringing in new algorithms, making it difficult for Indian bidders.