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NEW DELHI : With the Chinese government’s energies focussed on containing the Covid-19 outbreak, Indian strategic experts think it may help slow down China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), specifically in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Even if the crisis has no more than a marginal impact on the BRI, which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, Indian experts and officials believe that the damage has already been done.

India has been critical of CPEC, which cuts through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Some believe that the Covid-19 outbreak may be at best a “temporary setback," to China’s showpiece One Belt One Road (Obor) infrastructure initiative, unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, that aims to build railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe.

“You have a moving train that has come to a temporary halt because some repairs need to be done at the workshop. It will ultimately move and reach its destination. All we are seeing is a temporary kind of setback," said Alka Acharya, professor in Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

To counter Beijing, the US is seeking a bigger role for India in stabilizing and maintaining the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region—a large swathe of land and sea stretching all the way from the west coast of the US to the shores of east Africa.

“Together, we will defend our sovereignty, security, and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region for our children and for many, many generations to come," US President Donald Trump said duding his recent visit to India.

A pushback against BRI is taking place in the Indo-Pacific region from a grouping known as the Quad, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan. “India needs to go back to the drawing board and try to get into a space which is being redesigned. There is no zero sum game here, as everyone will be impacted by the contagion," Acharya said.

Some analysts believe that India’s seemingly inadequate response to the crisis in China will have far wide reaching implications given the nature of relationship between the two countries.

India and China recently engaged in a verbal spat over Beijing’s seeming refusal to grant New Delhi permission for an evacuation flight. China denied that there was any delay in granting permission.

“This is a strategic error... Given that when you have a positive experience it gets handed down over generations, the negative experience is also more vitriolic in nature," said a New Delhi-based strategic affairs expert requesting anonymity.

“We have to live with China in our neighbourhood. Like families, there are somethings that you never forget," said the New Delhi-based strategic expert and added, “China will bounce back given the demographics. They have experienced far worse kind of losses earlier."

“From the perspective of evaluating the global business cycle, we view Covid-19 as a transitory, exogenous shock as opposed to an economic slowdown which is caused by endogenous pulls and pressures of an economy that is overheating and fundamentally challenged. We remain of the view that the recovery is being delayed but not derailed," a Morgan Stanley report said.

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