BCIM Economic Corridor an Integral Part of BRI for Regional Cooperation: Positioning India’s North-East and Act East Policy

Published date01 August 2021
Date01 August 2021
Subject MatterResearch Articles
Research Article
BCIM Economic
Corridor an Integral
Part of BRI for Regional
Cooperation: Positioning
India’s North-East and
Act East Policy
Reimeingam Marchang1
China proactively wants to establish the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar
Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) as an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative
for economic cooperation. Through the BCIM-EC, China wants to revive the
ancient Southern Silk Road trade route. Beijing realises that to achieve the
BCIM-EC, India’s cooperation would be indispensable. India has been hesitant
to fully commit to the BCIM-EC owing mainly to the surging trade deficit with
China, overlapping of objectives with other similar existing regional cooperation
initiatives, China’s dominance in South Asia, security concerns, territorial disputes
and trade-related logistic issues. However, in recent times, India has shown
more interest in developing the economic corridor considering its potential
to promote development, security and stability in the Indian Northeast, which
would align well with the geostrategic objectives of India’s Act East Policy (AEP).
India however needs to better align its AEP with BCIM-EC in order to promote
and strengthen the AEP and thereby concurrently build the BCIM-EC to link
Southeast Asia and China.
BCIM Economic Corridor, BRI, regional cooperation, geo-economic, Act East
Policy, north-eastern region
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
8(2) 249–269, 2021
© The Author(s) 2021
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970211017732
1 Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
Corresponding author:
Reimeingam Marchang, Room No. 247, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao
Road, Nagarabhavi P.O., Bengaluru, Karnataka 560072, India.
E-mails: reimeingam@gmail.com; reimeingam@isec.ac.in
250 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 8(2)
Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor (EC), initiated
for economic cooperation and regional integration, appears to be a win-win
initiative according to Sahoo et al. (2014). China considers BCIM-EC as an
integral part of a larger developmental project of the Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI) in general, and Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) in particular, to establish
broader economic cooperation. China’s intentions to establish BCIM-EC are
arguably both geo-economic and geostrategic (Sajjanhar, 2016; Chakraborti,
2017) by reviving ancient China’s Southern Silk Road (SSR) economic belt (Press
Trust of India, 2013; Xinhua, 2013; Sahoo & Bhunia, 2014; Jash, 2015; Sajjanhar,
2016; Sachdeva, 2019). To make BCIM-EC successful, it is acknowledged by
China that India’s active and cooperative participation is essential, owing to its
economic and political influence in the region. Thus, China has been earnestly
inviting India to take part in building BCIM-EC, in particular. Although India
has been hesitant to actively participate in BMIC-EC for various reasons, most
notably due to India’s growing trade deficit with China (Karim & Islam, 2018),
the building of the economic corridor may provide tangible economic, trade and
political benefits to India. In particular, the EC may strengthen trade and investment
facilitation, cooperation on energy and connectivity, and help reduce India’s trade
deficit. Some critics suggest that the BCIM Free Trade Area (FTA) may even help
to resolve India’s border dispute with China in the Indian Northeast (Juergens,
2014). While this is doubtful and some economists caution that the free flow of
trade and commerce through BCIM-EC may worsen India’s trade imbalance with
China (Anand, 2014), India’s involvement in building the economic corridor is
necessary due to its economic growth potentials.
India has been hesitant to actively participate in building regional cooperation
and economic integration under BCIM-EC due to multiple reasons: the overlapping
of BCIM-EC’s objectives with other similar existing regional cooperation
initiatives; China’s dominance in Southeast Asia; problems of insurgency in
India’s North Eastern Region (NER); territorial dispute with China over Arunachal
Pradesh; and a host of logistic issues. The problem of insurgency and the territorial
dispute with China have particularly heightened India’s geopolitical and security
Yet, in recent years, India has started a strategic move by actively pursuing
BCIM regional cooperation to open up landlocked and underdeveloped NER
under India’s Act East Policy (AEP) to the neighbouring countries for development
(Yhome, 2017). The NER, the key stakeholder of AEP, has the potential to become
a centre of developmental activities in industry, tourism and service through the
BCIM-EC. Cuiping (2017) has observed that as a geopolitical strategy, opening
up of the NER to BCIM sub-regions may improve the NER’s linkage to
Asian and Pacific countries that aligns with India’s AEP. The AEP aims for greater
economic development, industrialisation, promotion of trade (Singh, 2018),
rapid development, security and geostrategic control (Palit, 2016), and it falls
under the ambit of the BCIM-EC. Strategically, India emphasises more on AEP
over BCIM-EC (Karim & Islam, 2018) to develop the NER (Bhattacharjee, 2018).

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