Keynote speakers at Kantipur Conclave discuss different facets of connectivity

Keynote speakers at the Kantipur Conclave on Friday shed light on different aspects of connectivity—from its evolution and current forms to China’s role in driving it forward.

During their speeches on the inaugural day of the second Kantipur Conclave, Kantipur Media Group’s global event, C Raja Mohan, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies; Bruno Macaes, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; and Andy Mok, senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, touched upon the economic, and political facets of connectivity in the context of Nepal and the neighbourhood.

Mohan highlighted how connectivity has evolved over the centuries, and offered suggestions on how Nepal should approach connectivity projects backed by various countries.

“There is a long history where connectivity was taken up by different sets of actors. There was the ancient Silk Road which was connecting Europe and Asia by land and the sea. Goods and ideas and religious beliefs travelled across the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Eurasia through this Silk Road,” Mohan said.

“Europeans brought connectivity to this part of the world [South Asia] in the 18th and 19th centuries along with European capital’s entry here. As a result, cities like Mumbai and Madras were created.” And today, according to him, there are “connectivity offers” from countries such as China, the United States, Japan and Europe.

When there are multiple vendors offering the same product, it is the buyers’ market, he said.

“There is the Belt and Road Initiative of China, the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, Partnership for Quality Infrastructure of Japan... and the European Union has come up with a connectivity strategy of its own,” said Mohan. “So you have a large number of leading powers willing to invest in infrastructure and connectivity of other countries.”

He said that it is more important for countries such as Nepal to set their own preconditions or conditions when negotiating the terms of infrastructure development projects.

“So the difference between the 19th century, where you had no choice and someone else was taking the decisions… today you have the choice… you can pick and choose from the Belt and Road Initiative, you can pick and choose from the Indo-Pacific and you can pick and choose from Quality Infrastructure.”

Macaes, meanwhile, stressed connectivity between ideas and civilisations. “The fundamental sense of connectivity is how we bring different cultural worlds, different political models together,” he added.

Mok, in his speech, said, “We should look into the status of connectivity of a country, which country is in driving position to increase connectivity and what types of institution we need for improving [connectivity].” He added that China is in the driving position around the world when it comes to connectivity.