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Joining China’s B&R will aid India’s ambitious airport plan: analysts

2018/9/14 10:30:10   source:Global Times

Indian politicians should abandon concerns to embrace China-proposed Belt and Road (B&R) initiative as it would help the South Asian country's massive airport plan, experts said Wednesday.

The comment came after Indian newspaper the Economic Times reported Tuesday that India is planning to build 100 airports in the next 10 to 15 years.

India has put much focus on infrastructure construction over recent years and the country should seek cooperation and help from China as the latter has relevant rich experience and could provide capital and technology supports, Lou Chunhao, an expert with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times Wednesday.

Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu announced on Tuesday that India plans to invest more than 4 trillion rupees ($60 billion) in the airport-building project, which would almost double the South Asian nation's airports, currently numbering 120.

Prabhu said that private capital will be brought to help finance the project under public-private partnership (PPP) program.

"We plan to put it in the public domain for anyone interested in building infrastructure or airports will get an advanced intimation on where it is going to happen... Our strategy is clear. We have to do it in a PPP mode. We need to have private sector participation," Prabhu said, according to the Economic Times report.

India has been strengthening its public infrastructure projects, which could help provide employment for 10 million new workers who join the labor force every year, said the report.

Currently, India has not joined the B&R initiative.

However, China-India cooperation in infrastructure has great potential, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Lou echoed the opinion, saying there is much scope for bilateral cooperation in the infrastructure sector.

Although some Indian politicians have concerns toward the B&R initiative, which is their unilateral concerns, they should abandon such bias and seek pragmatic cooperation with China, because "that will actually benefit India," Lou noted.

"India has a vast labor force, and naturally India would use its own workers to build its airports," said Zhao.

"However the Indian government may have trouble finding funding for the whole project, and may need to seek foreign assistance. China could be a reasonable source to provide funding," added Zhao.

India has emerged as a top borrower from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank with $1.5 billion worth of loans last year, the Economic Times reported in January.

According to data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India's air transport market has grown by 16.6 percent year-on-year through May 2018 and has shown double-digit growth for 45 consecutive months.

IATA estimates that Indian air passenger traffic will grow to 520 million in 2037, becoming the world's third-largest air traffic market.

Chinese companies have also participated in airport construction in foreign countries under the Belt and Road initiative, such as the Pokhara airport in Nepal or the expansion of the Niamtougou airport in Togo.

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