We take immense pleasure in handing to you this special issue “Prosperity Through Connectivity : The Intercontinental Connectivity” published by the Rashtriya Patrakarita Kalyan Nyas. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is the only compilation on the vitally important topic of projects undertaken to build network of base infrastructure at national and international level and their effects on the Country’s economy.
The basic infrastructure development projects undertaken by the government led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, which came to the power some four years ago with big aspirations, has proven to be its big achievement. Several basic infrastructure projects had remained pending for a prolonged period. This is the precise reason why Mr. Nitin Gadkari, an innovative and ambitious minister who has expedited these projects within a short span of time, is one of the popular leaders of the Country. A new India envisaged by Mr. Modi is shaping up through a number of projects including construction of roads in border areas, building network of roads in remote areas, linking producing regions of the Country with ports and harbours, airports and other states, developing world-class roads to link various metros of the Country, encouraging and promoting waterways transport through projects like river linking and river widening, increasing goods handling capacity of major ports and harbours, constructing small and medium size ports and harbours, linking all ports and harbours scattered across the Eastern and Western coastlines of the Country etc.
Besides, this government has done a sea change in the Country’s economic, strategic and foreign policies to link it with development of base infrastructure. That this government has given priority to working on an integrated policy instead of adopting separate and compartmentalised viewpoints while chalking out all these policies is clearly visible. Most of the projects, which were envisaged during the tenures of former Prime Minister Mr P V Narsimha Rao, who opened the doors to the world economy for India, and former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, during whose rule the country’s development continued in leaps and bounds, went on the backburner inexplicably during the period after their terms concluded. Resultant, the ambitious makers of China’s policy started cornering India, which once played the role of big brother in the sub-region, from all sides. How can one overlook the fact that the prime reason behind the isolation that India is facing today is a fallout of negligence shown after 2004 towards the implementation of base infrastructure projects though there was dire need of developing basic infrastructure in neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and despite these countries having entered into various agreements with India keeping it in mind. Today, everybody has become aware of the big cost that India has paid for its failure to take interest in developing the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Mr Modi faced the challenge of bringing “Achhe Din” to the country‒heralding the bright future of the country‒against this backdrop. Mammoth tasks like development of base infrastructure, promoting and encouraging industrial sector, boosting agricultural and industrial export of the Country, taking concrete steps to meet ever-increasing requirement of fuel, regaining the lost footings, credibility and standing of the country, finding solution on the strategic isolation of India made by China were at hand for the government of Prime Minister Modi. On the other hand, India’s concerns had escalated due to the “One Belt – One Road” project of China, which was possessed by the ambition of becoming a world power. However, understanding well that alternatives and not emotive narratives are of utmost importance when it comes to the world politics, this government adopted a mature and alternative point of view and started expediting various base infrastructure development projects in the sub-continent.
Many described India’s decision of boycotting the OBOR Summit that took place at Beijing last year as “audacious and arbitrary”. Even the media giants from our Country had spared no words while criticising that decision. Moreover, exaggerated propaganda that the Country’s interest laid in forging partnership with China in projects like OBOR instead of adopting a role of a “bystander” was also done rather tactfully. Later on, when Doklam standoff unmasked China’s aggressive face vis-a-vis India’s balanced policies, it was revealed how many feel themselves closer to the makers of China’s policy than the fathers of our own policy. However, such decisions are taken using farsightedness and not by being overconfident. The fathers of present policies of India were working silently and resolutely on several projects, which were of vital importance for connecting India with the world. With a great speed, India is bringing into reality several projects which would prove to be alternatives for China’s OBOR on the world map and which would complement any such future possibility. However, the intention of our Country behind implementing these projects is not of dominating the rest of the World, but of achieving balanced development of the entire world. This has been clear at every stage, right from charting out the policies of these project to their implementation. Consequently, Central Asian Countries like Iran and Afghanistan and Asian Nations towards the east of India are looking forward enthusiastically to rework their geopolitical alliances and strategies. The icing on the cake is that world powers like USA, Japan and France too have extended their support to this stance taken by India.
There is at least some deliberation on the Chabahar port in southeast Iran and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway projects in the public discourse. However, we are seldom privy to information about the remaining projects. This is precisely why the Rashtriya Patrakarita Kalyan Nyas embarked on compiling information about such projects. Hopefully, integrated presentation of these projects would help give us all a glimpse of the larger picture, wherein the key to the New India of the future, an empower India, could be found.
How can a nation aspire to become a world power unless it has a vision of embracing the entire world and will to support it with base infrastructure? When enabled the expanses of Briton and other European countries in the older days and galloping strides of USA and China in the recent past? What was the significance of the ancient “Silk Route” that linked the prosperous India of the past and China? Honest answers to such questions alone would guide our country on the path of progress in the future.
The present day Central Government, which has risen to the need of the times, stands out because of the magnanimous and comprehensive approach. This special issue deals with not only these possibilities, but also the challenges. It would be appropriate here to express special gratitude towards the knowledgeable writers, who have cooperated for this, especially because the information provided in this special issue is as precious as pearls of wisdom and as rare as hens’ teeth. All these writers devoted their precious time and worked painstakingly not only on just providing the information, but also on doing objective assessment and analysis. It would sanguinely prove of great help for policy makers and experts in this field. Besides, specific mention and praise is due here for the artists who performed the ardent task of drawing maps and designs based on the information provided in this special issue because accomplishing such a challenging task takes not only innovativeness but also a sea of patience and endurance.
Detailed interviews of union ministers Mr Nitin Gadkari, Dharmendra Pradhan and M J Akbar have been incorporated in this special issue. They are immensely helpful in understanding the approach adopted by the Government of India towards these projects. They found precious time from their busy schedule to extend their wholehearted cooperation to the board of editors, which was of vital importance for completion of this project. We are immensely grateful to them. The well researched preface authored by Dr Vinay Sahastrabuddhe, Rajya Sabha member and President of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, an organisation that plays pivotal role in forming foreign policy of the Country, unfolds the core of this special issue. This special issue could not have come out except for the wholehearted cooperation extended by Dr Sahastrabuddhe and many other knowledgeable persons. While seizing the opportunity to assure that the Rashtriya Patrakarita Kalyan Nyas would continue discussions on various topics of vital importance to the Nation in the future too, we hand over this special issue to you.
– Chandrahas Mirasdar