By HARSH V. PANT PREMESHA SAHA
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping during official visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, is among the world’s most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. It is a union of development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe, and in the process significantly expand China’s economic and political influence in these massive regions. The plan, initially named ‘One Belt, One Road’, is two-pronged: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt, and the Maritime Silk Road. On land, Beijing aims to connect the country’s underdeveloped hinterland to Europe through Central Asia; the maritime component will build ports and railways to connect the fastgrowing Southeast Asian region to China’s southern provinces.