India may join the US-led Blue Dot Network (BDN).
The BDN was formally announced on 4th November, 2019 at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. It will be led by the US along with Japan and Australia.
It is a multi-stakeholder initiative to bring together governments, the private sector and civil society to promote high-quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development.
It is expected to serve as a globally recognised evaluation and certification system for roads, ports and bridges with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
Infrastructure projects would be graded on debt, environmental standards, labour standards etc.
This system would apply to projects in any citizen-centric country where citizens would like to evaluate such projects.
It seems to be planned as a direct counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, unlike the BRI, the BDN would not offer public funds or loans for the project. BDN will serve as a globally recognized seal of approval for major infrastructure projects, letting people know that projects are sustainable and not exploitative.
India has not joined China’s BRI.
Till 2019, China’s investment in BRI projects in various countries exceeds US$90 billion. Instead of trying to match China’s scale of spending, the US through Blue Dot Network is arguing that the quality of investments in infrastructure is just as important as the quantity.
The new Blue Dot Network, therefore, is best seen as part of the U.S.A.’s strategy of trying to persuade developing countries in Asia-Pacific not rely on Chinese funds for infrastructure.
Belt and Road Initiative
BRI is an ambitious project that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among multiple countries spread across the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Initially announced in the year 2013, the project involves building networks of roadways, railways, maritime ports, power grids, oil and gas pipelines, and associated infrastructure projects.
The project covers two parts.
Silk Road Economic Belt: It is land-based and is expected to connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe.
21st Century Maritime Silk Road: It is sea-based and is expected to connect China’s southern coast to the Mediterranean, Africa, South-East Asia, and Central Asia.