The Status of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in South Asia


At the recently concluded summit of G-7 leaders in Germany, U.S. President Joe Biden and his allies unveiled their $600 billion plan called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Intelligence which is being seen as a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), valued at a trillion U.S. dollars by some experts.


GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
  2. BRI’s investments in Pakistan
  3. What about Sri Lanka?
  4. Are there projects in Afghanistan?
  5. How have projects from India and China progressed in Maldives?
  6. What about Bangladesh?

What is China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

  • In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, expressed his vision to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, to break the “bottleneck” in Asian connectivity.
    • This vision led to the birth of the BRI.
    • The initiative envisioned a Chinese-led investment of over $1 trillion in partner countries by 2025.
  • More than 60 countries have now joined BRI agreements with China, with infrastructure projects under the initiative being planned or under construction in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.
  • To finance BRI projects, China offers huge loans at commercial interest rates that countries have to pay within a fixed number of years.
  • The west has accused China of debt-trapping by extending “predatory loans” that force countries to cede key assets to China.
  • However, research indicates that low and middle-income countries are often the ones to approach China after not being able to secure loans from elsewhere.
  • In recent years, the BRI seems to have experienced a slowing down as annual Chinese lending to countries under the initiative slimmed from its peak of $125 billion in 2015 to around $50 to 55 billion in 2021.

BRI’s investments in Pakistan

On his 2015 visit to Pakistan, Mr. Xi and then Pakistan Prime Minister unveiled the BRI’s flagship project and its biggest one in a single country — the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
  • China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a collection of infrastructure projects that are under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013.
  • CPEC is intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.
  • On 13 November 2016, CPEC became partly operational when Chinese cargo was transported overland to Gwadar Port for onward maritime shipment to Africa and West Asia.
  • A vast network of highways and railways are to be built under the aegis of CPEC that will span the length and breadth of Pakistan.
  • At the centre of the CPEC was the $700 million development of the city of Gwadar into a smart port city that would become the “Singapore of Pakistan”.
  • Gwadar is strategically important as it is an hour’s drive from Iran and less than 320 km from Oman.
  • According to the master plan for Gwadar’s development under BRI, approved in 2020, it would increase the city’s GDP to $30 billion by 2050 and create over a million jobs.
  • CPEC passes through the disputed region of Kashmir where Indian and Pakistani border guards have occasionally exchanged fire across the Line of Control. The Government of India, which shares tense relations with Pakistan, objects to the CPEC project as upgrade works to the Karakoram Highway are taking place in Gilgit Baltistan; territory that India claims as its own.
Coal plants
  • While coal plants set up and managed by Chinese firms did help improve the power situation in Pakistan, former Prime Minister Imran Khan sought renegotiation of payments to China in 2020 alleging that Chinese companies had overcharged the country by $3 billion.
  • In May 2022, Chinese power firms operating in Pakistan threatened to close down if the latter did not pay dues worth 300 billion in Pakistani rupees (approximately $1.5 billion).

What about Sri Lanka?

  • In Sri Lanka, multiple infrastructure projects that were being financed by China came under the fold of the BRI after it was launched in 2013.
  • The island nation in the last couple of years has witnessed competition between India and China in port terminal and energy projects.
  • In 2021, Colombo ejected India and Japan out of a deal to develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo port and got China to take up the project.
  • It then awarded the project for the Western Side of the Terminal to the Adani Group.
Hambantota port:
  • Some BRI projects in Sri Lanka have been described as white elephants — such as the Hambantota port, a deep seaport on the world’s busiest east-west shipping lane, which was meant to spur industrial activity.
  • The port had always been secondary to the busy Colombo port until the latter ran out of capacity.
  • The Sri Lankan government took $1.4 billion in Chinese loans for the port’s expansion.
  • Unable to service the huge loan and incurring $300 million in losses due to delays, the government handed Hambantota port to a Chinese state-owned company on a 99-year lease in 2017.
  • Other key projects under BRI include the development of the Colombo International Container Terminal, the Central Expressway and the Hambantota International Airport among others.

Are there projects in Afghanistan?

  • Afghanistan has not comprehensively been brought into the BRI, despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) being signed with China in 2016.
  • China had promised investments worth $100 million in Afghanistan which is small in comparison to what it shelled out in other South Asian countries. The projects have not materialised so far and uncertainties have deepened after the Taliban takeover last year.

How have projects from India and China progressed in Maldives?

  • Situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Maldives comprises two hundred islands, and both India and China have strategic interests there.
  • One of the most prominent BRI projects undertaken in the Maldives is the two km long China-Maldives Friendship Bridge — a $200 million four lane bridge.
  • Most of China’s investment in the Maldives happened under former President Abdullah Yameen, seen as pro-China.
    • Over the years, opposition protests grew against the large borrowing from China and Mr. Yameen was defeated in 2018.
  • The Maldives’ current regime of President has tried to distance itself from the BRI, focusing more on its ‘India First’ policy.
  • India has also in recent years sought greater ties with the Maldives under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

What about Bangladesh?

  • Bangladesh, which joined the BRI in 2016, has been promised the second-highest investment (about $40 billion) in South Asia after Pakistan.
  • Multiple studies, including research by the Council on Foreign Relations, show that Bangladesh has been able to benefit from the BRI while maintaining diplomatic and strategic ties with both India and China.
  • It has managed to not upset India by getting India to build infrastructure projects similar to BRI in the country.
  • In 2016, when the Chinese government promised Dhaka BRI investment worth around $40 billion, India followed up in 2017 by extending a $5 billion line of credit and economic assistance.
  • BRI projects include China-Bangladesh Friendship Bridges, special economic zones, the $689.35 million-Karnaphuli River tunnel project, upgradation of the Chittagong port, and a rail line between the port and China’s Yunnan province.
  • However, multiple projects have been delayed owing to the slow release of funds by China.

Single Use Plastic


A ban on the use of single-use plastics that was notified by the Union Environment Ministry on August 2021 came into effect on July 1 this year.


GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article

  1. About Single use plastic
  2. What are the items being banned?
  3. How will the ban be enforced?
  4. Impacts of Single Use Plastic (SUP)
  5. Challenges with banning single use plastic
  6. Measures taken so far in India


  • The national and State-level control rooms would be set up to check illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of banned single use plastic items.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, will also prohibit manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of plastic carry bags.
  • This is for plastics having thickness less than 120 microns with effect from December 31, 2022.

About Single use plastic

  • Single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
  • These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, stirrers, styrofoam cups or plates etc.

What are the items being banned?

  • The items on which the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban are earbuds; balloon sticks; candy and ice-cream sticks; cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays; sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packs; PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration.
  • The Ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, expanding the limit from the earlier 50 microns.
  • From December, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 microns.
  • Ministry officials have explained that the ban is being introduced in phases to give manufacturers time to shift to thicker polythene bags that are easier to recycle.
  • While manufacturers can use the same machine for 50- and 75-micron bags, the machinery will need to be upgraded for 120 microns.
  • According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is also a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.

How will the ban be enforced?

  • The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre, and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
  • Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels — for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
  • Directions have also been issued to SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees to modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
  • Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.
  • Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.
  • Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB. In addition, there are municipal laws on plastic waste, with their own penal codes.

Impacts of Single Use Plastic (SUP)

  • Environmental pollution: A staggering total of it remains uncollected causing choking of drainage and river systems, littering of the marine ecosystem, soil and water pollution, ingestion by stray animals, and open air burning leading to adverse impact on environment.
  • Disposal issue: They do not biodegrade instead they slowly break down into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics which again causes more issues. It can take up to thousands of years for plastic bags and Styrofoam containers to decompose.
  • Human health: The toxins, poisons and persistent pollutants present in some of these plastic products leach and enter human bodies where they cause several diseases, including cancer and can damage nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs. Humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year through fish (contaminated with microplastics) alone.
  • Marine life & climate change: Plastic waste is at epidemic proportions in the world’s oceans with an estimated 100 million tonnes dumped there to date. o Plastic kills an estimated 1 million sea birds every year and affects around 700 species which get infected by ingesting plastics. Single-use plastics make up on average 49% of beach litter.
  • Increasing Carbon dioxide: If the production, disposal and incineration of plastic continues on its present-day growth trajectory, by 2030 these global emissions could reach 1.34 gigatonne per year — equivalent to more than 295 coal-based power plants of 500-MW capacity.
  • More impact on developing countries: The ubiquitous plastic seems to be a curse for the third world countries, because poor countries, especially in Asia, not only have their own plastic dump to deal with but also the plastic trash that lands on their shores from developed countries.

Challenges with banning single use plastic

  • No immediate alternatives: It is difficult to ban the product which is of immense use to the public, without thinking of a sustainable and equally utilitarian alternative product.
    • For e.g. Single-use plastic helps keep medical equipment sterile and safe to use.
    • There is no alternative to plastic yet and sectors like pharmaceuticals, hardware, toys, food processing, food delivery will be in total chaos.
    • While there is increased awareness in urban area, the challenge will be to find a suitable cost effective alternatives in tier II and tier III towns and remote locations.
  • Impact on packaging industry: It impacts most industries since SUP forms part of packaging and hence is linked to all industries directly or indirectly.
    • If plastic sachets made from multi-layered packaging are banned, it can disrupt supplies of key products such as biscuits, salt and milk etc which has made life easier for the poor in terms of affordable small packs and convenience.
    • Ban will increase the price of most FMCG products as manufacturers would try and shift to alternative packaging (which can be costlier).
  • Loss of jobs and revenue: Ban can lead to loss of revenue as well as job loss in the plastic manufacturing industry.
    • India’s plastic industry officially employs around 4 million people across 30,000 processing units, out of which 90% are small to medium-sized businesses.
    • Plastics also support thousands employed informally such as ragpickers as well as street food and market vendors who are reliant on single-use plastic.
  • Attitudinal change: It is difficult as no one takes the responsibility for the single use plastic thrown by them and behaviour change towards the shift from non-using of single use plastic is difficult.

Measures taken so far in India

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation, collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • Ban on Single-Use Plastics in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022.
  • World Environment Day, 2018 hosted in India, the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.

Purchasing Managers Index


India’s services firms saw growth in new business and output accelerate to a 11-year high in June, as per the survey-based S&P Global India Services Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).

  • The index rose to 59.2 last month, from 58.9 in May, signalling a strengthening in demand across the services sector, which had borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.


GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?
  2. Understanding PMI

What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?

  • The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors.
  • It consists of a diffusion index that summarizes whether market conditions, as viewed by purchasing managers, are expanding, staying the same, or contracting.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • In simple words, Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is a measure of the prevailing direction of economic trends in manufacturing.
  • PMI is a survey-based measure that asks the respondents about changes in their perception about key business variables as compared with the previous month.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is also constructed.
  • PMI is compiled by IHS Markit for more than 40 economies worldwide – IHS Markit is a global leader in information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide.

Understanding PMI

  • The PMI is a number from 0 to 100.
  • A print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
  • A reading at 50 indicates no change.
  • If PMI of the previous month is higher than the PMI of the current month, it represents that the economy is contracting.
  • It is usually released at the start of every month. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity.
  • It is different from the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which also gauges the level of activity in the economy.
  • IIP covers the broader industrial sector compared to PMI.
  • However, PMI is more dynamic compared to a standard industrial production index.

Three new ‘Exotic’ Sub-Atomic Particles Discovered  


The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment has observed three never-before-seen particles.


GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. What are quarks?
  3. What about tetraquarks and pentaquarks?


  • The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment — which is investigating the slight differences between matter and antimatter by studying a type of particle called the “beauty quark”, or “b quark” — has observed three never-before-seen particles.
  • The three “exotic” additions — a new kind of “pentaquark” and the first-ever pair of “tetraquarks” — to the growing list of new hadrons found at the LHC will help physicists better understand how quarks bind together into these composite particles

What are quarks?

  • Quarks are elementary particles that come in six “flavours”: up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom.
  • They usually combine together in groups of twos and threes to form hadrons such as the protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei.
  • But they can also combine into four-quark and five-quark particles, called tetraquarks and pentaquarks.
  • These exotic hadrons were predicted by theorists about six decades ago — around the same time as conventional hadrons — but they have been observed by LHCb and other experiments only in the past 20 years.

What about tetraquarks and pentaquarks?

  • According to the CERN release, most exotic hadrons discovered in the past two decades are tetraquarks or pentaquarks containing a charm quark and a charm antiquark — with the remaining two or three quarks being an up, down or strange quark or their antiquarks.

What is Fields Medal?


Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska was named as one of four recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal, which is often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics.


GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Fields Medal?
  2. History of the Medal
  3. Indian-origin winners

What is Fields Medal?

  • The Fields Medal is awarded by the International Mathematical Union (IMU), an international non-governmental and non-profit scientific organisation.
  • It is awarded every four years to one or more mathematicians under the age of 40 in recognition of “outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement”.
  • The winners are announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), which was supposed to be held in Russia this year, but was moved to Helsinki.
  • The honour carries a physical medal of 14K gold, 63.5 mm in diameter and weighing 169 g, and with a unit price of approximately 5,500 Canadian dollars.
  • There is also a cash award of CAD 15,000.
  • The obverse of the medal is embossed with the head of Archimedes facing right, and some Latin quotes.

History of the Medal

  • According to the IMU website, the 1924 ICM in Toronto adopted a resolution that at each conference, two gold medals would be awarded to recognise outstanding mathematical achievement.
  • The Canadian mathematician Prof J C Fields, who was secretary of the 1924 Congress, later donated funds to establish the medals, which were named in his honour.
  • In 1966, it was agreed that, in light of the great expansion of mathematical research, up to four medals could be awarded at each Congress.

Indian-origin winners

  • Among the more than 60 mathematicians who have been awarded the Fields Medal since 1936, there are two of Indian origin.
  • Akshay Venkatesh of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, won in 2018, the last time the honour was announced.
  • Manjul Bhargava of the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University was awarded in 2014.


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