Washington: In a significant move, the United States has revived two major infrastructure projects in South and Southeast Asia in which India would be a vital player.
The move could potentially act as a counter to China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative (OBOR).
The Trump administration has resuscitated the ‘New Silk Road’ initiative and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South and Southeast Asia.
A brief outline of the two projects was made available in the administration’s maiden annual budget on Tuesday, which indicated that the ‘New Silk Road’ project would be a public- private initiative in which India would be an important player.
The state department said the budgetary request of its South and Central Asia will support the two initiatives – the New Silk Road (NSR) focused on Afghanistan and its neighbours, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia.
This request will be leveraged through side-by-side collaboration with regional countries, other bilateral donors, multilateral development banks, and the private sector.
It said “the importance of… The NSR grows” as the transition in Afghanistan continues and the US “strives to help the Afghan people succeed and stand on their own.”
The state department said it will deepen support for the objectives through “far-reaching” public diplomacy programmes.
According to James McBride of the Council on Foreign Relations, the NSR refers to a suite of joint investment projects and regional trade blocs that have the potential to bring economic growth and stability to Central Asia, as per PTI.
“Following the surge of 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan in 2009, which President Barack Obama’s administration had hoped would lay the groundwork for complete withdrawal a few years later, Washington began to lay out a strategy for supporting these initiatives through diplomatic means,” McBride said.
The ‘New Silk Road’ initiative was first announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July 2011 in a speech in Chennai.
Announcing her vision for a New Silk Road, Clinton had said, “Turkmen gas fields could help meet both Pakistan’s and India’s growing energy needs and provide significant transit revenues for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tajik cotton could be turned into Indian linens. Furniture and fruit from Afghanistan could find its way to the markets of Astana or Mumbai and beyond.”