Srikanth Thaliyakkattil, China’s Achilles’ Heel: The Belt and Road Initiative and Its Indian Discontents

Published date01 January 2021
Date01 January 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
International Studies
58(1) 116 –124, 2021
© 2021 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/0020881720983725
Book Review
Srikanth Thaliyakkattil, China’s Achilles’ Heel: The Belt and Road
Initiative and Its Indian Discontents (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan,
2019), xi-257 pp. US$ 97.25, ISBN: 978-981-13-8424-0; ISBN: 978-981-
China proposed its regional integration project in Eurasia, the ‘Belt and Road
Initiative’ (BRI), formerly known as ‘One Belt One Road’, during President Xi
Jinping’s visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September–October 2013. The
BRI project, reviving the legacy of ancient Silk Road during the Western Han
dynasty, has both land and maritime dimensions—Silk Road Economic Belt and
the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Chinese BRI, in principle, aims at inclusive
globalization, peaceful integration, economic cooperation, and human wellbeing
by boosting infrastructure building, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges
in Asian, European and African continents. It is also the Chinese response to the
domestic demands of social and economic development, and a reaction to the
challenges of global governance, regionalization and changing geopolitical
situation in the world. India, however, despite potential economic opportunities,
views the BRI in South Asia as a strategic challenge, especially its flagship project
the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, because of sovereignty-related issues.
In this context, Srikanth Thaliyakkattil’s book is an interesting attempt to write
a comprehensive analysis of the Chinese political thinking behind the BRI
initiative and their critique of India’s rejection of the BRI. The author demonstrates
India’s rejection as the most vulnerable part of the BRI, and the resulting events
and discourse caused unfavourable impact that led to the resurrection of the Indo-
Pacific strategy. The author argues, despite intense Chinese propaganda pushing
the BRI’s ‘good story’ narrative, ‘BRI is turning out to be one of the greatest
blows to China in its global engagement, will China emerge from it is a question
only time can answer’ (p. vii). With the benevolent narrative of BRI, internally
won due to absolute government control over media and academia, externally, it
encountered challenges when countries possessing powerful English media and
academia like the US and India interpreted the BRI as a threat and exploitative
project. The author’s choice of topic is motivated by his scholarly curiosity as a
doctoral candidate in Peking University and due to having personally witnessed a
‘blitzkrieg’ of BRI campaigns through generously funded projects in the academia,
media and government departments.
The book is structured into eight chapters. The introduction frames the
benevolent BRI narrative as a strategic camouflage. The BRI discourse shows
contradictions, ambiguity and geopolitical underpinnings. The real intention

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