November 28, 2017        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Shivshankar Menon observes that China’s Belt and Road Initiative will impact much more than economic growth. Image credit – erandalx / deposit photos



The Unprecedented Promises and Threats of the Belt and Road Initiative, The Wire, by Shivshankar Menon, Former National Security Advisor, India

“… the BRI represents an opportunity for India. [I]t will markedly change the economic and strategic landscape within which we operate, and India must prepare for that change.

  • Shivshankar Menon observes that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a project of unprecedented scale with ramifications beyond economic growth. He notes that:
    • Unlike the Marshall Plan, the BRI is about development, not reconstruction, and is not limited to a geographical area. The BRI is a more expansive version of Japan’s export of capital, manufacturing and technology in the late 1980s-90s, through which Japan integrated its production networks with countries like South Korea.
    • States will economically benefit from the BRI because its infrastructure projects provide public goods and create production networks. However, not all BRI projects are economically viable, which suggests that some projects have been included for strategic or other reasons; for example, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
    • Much of the planned BRI infrastructure is in countries with weak security and political instability. The BRI will be better implemented if China can address concerns about the security of BRI investments.



Don’t Let the Saudis Destabilize Lebanon, Foreign Affairs, by Bilal Y. Saad, Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute.

A major disruption of the status quo in Lebanon will expand the arc of crisis and chaos across the region.”

  • Bilal Saab argues that Saudi Arabia appears to be making Lebanon the next front of its conflict with Iran. He explains why this would be an unwise strategy, observing that:
    • Saudi Arabia is taking punitive measures against Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah, a Shiite party with an old and deep alliance with Iran. The resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, in Riyadh on 3 November, suggests that the Saudis were not convinced that Hariri could have implemented Saudi Arabia’s hardline policy on Hezbollah.
    • This strategy may only temporarily weaken Hezbollah and could create resentment among Lebanon’s Sunni community towards Saudi Arabia. Politically and economically disrupting Lebanon may also deepen the chaos in the region, which would benefit groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
    • To weaken Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia should instead (1) work with the US to enforce financial sanctions against Hezbollah, and (2) increase funding to Saudi allies in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to take place March 2018.

Written by Divya Hundlani and edited by Anishka De Zylva.

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