A recent report reads that China intends to connect China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to a corridor with India, Bangladesh and Myanmar through the sea. This development can be seen as Xi Jinping’s efforts to connect Asia and Europe under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One important aim of the plan is to link the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

It is interesting to note however, that despite the recent announcement, India boycotted the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing last month. The reason was its objection to CPEC; India contends that CPEC passes through Pakistani-Occupied Kashmir and hence directly questions their sovereignty. But on the flip side, India’s membership into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will entail cooperating with both Pakistan and China on some level, which is why this tantrum is no longer relevant.

The only way to overcome and settle differences over the Kashmir issue is by engaging in dialogue. History is replete with examples where two or more countries could not settle their differences by fighting each other but found a solution for their issues only when a dialogue was held. Pakistan has waved the olive branch and attempted to initiate negotiations more than a few times while India’s reaction has been lukewarm at best and usually, overtly hostile. Keeping a stalemate in place and jeopardising regional development as a consequence is not in the best interest of India either. Pakistan has already invited India to join CPEC. It is India that is still reluctant to be part of any projects with Pakistan.

Economists and experts pinpoint the present century as the Asian century – we need to take part in reaping the fruits of this. This can be achieved only if we focus on development rather than blaming each other. Other countries in the region like Bangladesh and Myanmar will also gain enormous benefits from the project after its completion.

With the inclusion of both India and Pakistan in the SCO, it is hoped that China and Russia can bring the two together for mutual benefit. The discussion of a new corridor to the South China Sea only proves that China has already started to get the ball rolling. The litmus test for India now, is whether it can forgo demonising a country for minimal political gain in favour of cooperation for long-term advantages for the entire continent.