In Initiative (BRI) initiative and its High –

In the
contemporary era of international relations earlier dominated by ‘hard power’
diplomacy limited to treaties, conventions, and arms control, as means of forging
diplomatic ties, countries have switched to exploiting the potential of forging
relations by establishing vast network of roads and railways, in the process
stimulating mutual economic gain. Railway diplomacy. The recent inauguration
of the freight train between the United Kingdom and China under China’s
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) initiative and its High – Speed Technology
export to South – East regions like Indonesia reflect the paradigm shift in its
diplomatic strategy while spreading its influence over the Eurasian and South
Eastern landmass.

Expansion
of Chinese Railways to the Central Asian and European regions has facilitated
diversification and strengthening of transport alternatives, but the challenge
that persists in its expansion is surrounded with several bottlenecks,
especially when we look at the unresolved
territory disputes, disputes over water sharing or the rivalry amongst its
leaders. Another challenge faced by China is the management of its
state-owned enterprises, with a great concern related to the rise of anti –
Chinese sentiments owing to their misconduct. In some ways, China’s Railway
Diplomacy remains a rough patch till it ensures the internal security of its
own people and also the political willingness and acceptance by people of the
countries members to its Railway diplomacy.

India
as well faces a similar situation, when it comes to maintaining a balanced
relation with its neighbours especially Pakistan, hindering the progress of
railway expansion. Railway as a soft power can be a catalyst in improving
trade relations between countries and strengthening the country’s international
economy.

Chinese Approach to Railway Diplomacy

With
the freight train between China and the United Kingdom, China hopes to
strengthen its ties with the Central Asian and European countries. The freight
corridor is part of President Xi Jinping’s vision to revive the old Silk Route.
The contemporary Silk Route aims at linking the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea
as well as East Asia to South and West Asia. This very silk route in the modern
day international relations is referred to as the Belt and Road initiative,
through which China intends to revive its 2200-year-old trade route, aimed at
creating a mutual
understanding and strengthening all round exchanges between the members of
the Belt and Road initiative besides promoting cultural and academic exchanges.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will also act as a gateway to promoting border
trade and tourism between autonomous Tibetan regions and neighbouring countries
such as Nepal

This is
not the first such freight link: China presently operates 1,700 freight trains
with 40,000
containers transported by rail between the Chinese mainland and Europe.
This is expected to increase further to 100,000 containers by 2020. China is
also constructing a
gauge-changing station for the Trans Eurasian Railway, with the capacity to
handle 6 trains at a time. But the larger geopolitical consideration is the
presence of large oil
and natural gas reserves, especially in Azerbaijan. China is also
strengthening its high-speed rail network in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia,
Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. China aims to extend its
operational Qinghai-Tibet Railway up to Rasuwagadhi,
located on the Tibet-Nepal Border by 2020 to facilitate quick
mobilization of resources to remote Tibetan areas and boost development
through tourism to the monastery town of Shigatse located near Nepal border.

Indian Approach to Railway Diplomacy

Indian
railway diplomacy, in general, is more culture-oriented than scientific,
focusing on people to people exchange promoting peaceful existence with its
neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, when compared to the Chinese form of
railway diplomacy. India has had tense relations with Pakistan since 1947. While
problems of counterfeit currencies, drug and human trafficking through the
porous borders of Bangladesh and possible infiltration by terrorists grapples India,
leading to suspension of train services – Samjhauta Express being the most
prominent. India operates two trains to Bangladesh –  Maitree Express and Bandhan Express, thus an
attempt to build stronger relation with Bangladesh to promote economic
cooperation and transport
connectivity through railways. India also operates freight train to
Bangladesh. Railway diplomacy in the Indian case is driven by the need of an
economic partnership, which would lend both scientific and economic assistance
till a point of self-sufficiency is reached. India’s limited knowledge and
experience with regard to high-speed train is precisely the reason behind its
growing ties with other European powers such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain,
and France and recently with Japan.

Growing Need for Railway Diplomacy

While
Chinese relations with India being a fragile affair owing to border disputes,
is still a necessary evil given India’s ambitious railway university proposal
and China’s experience in creating knowledge in the technical, managerial,
operational and engineering domains of railways.

China’s
plans of exporting high-speed rail technology to Southeast Asia is driven by its
need to forge better ties with the Southeast Asia under the Trans-Asian
Rail Initiative to which 18 countries are partners to building 8699 miles
of track resulting in the increasing trade volume, expected to rise to $1
trillion USD by 2020 in collaboration with United Nations. China is also
strengthening its high-speed rail network in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia,
Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.

China’s
ambitious high – speed rail linking Myanmar and Kolkata is a gateway to boosting
Bangladesh – China – India – Myanmar which will generate a potential trade
worth US$132 billion. Besides China’s immense investment in the railway sector
in the domains of education, high – speed rail is a food for thought for Indian
policymakers to understand the growing significance of railways in not just
technological upliftment. But also, towards exerting influence on the world
economics through the massive railway network while simultaneously expanding
its trade

India
on the other hand while having experienced technical collaboration with
European and South East Asian powers is not yet developed enough to contribute
to the global railway system. Thus, learning lessons from China, India should
not just confine opportunities to the working class of the railway fraternity,
but should also extend to the general population of the country to identify and
exploit the best of talents to catalyse the development of railway
infrastructure physically and intellectually.

 

Conclusion

From
China’s continued dominance in global railway systems, China also maintains a
balance of native culture and infrastructure development. China’s railway
construction is driven by its economic and diplomatic needs. This also includes
tapping of natural resources and expanding its technology and intellectual
transfer. Given favourable economic conditions and human resources, India has a
greater chance imbibing a long term sustainable development by imbibing the
Chinese culture.