China is facing a push back against its BRI in South Asia including from local politicians in Balochistan and this could emerge as a headache ahead of second BRI Summit. While resistance from Baloch political parties and Balochistan government against BRI is on rise, Maldives is undertaking an internal exercise to ascertain money owed to Beijing under BRI. India’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka, notwithstanding new loans from China, is courting other powers to bring back balance in its foreign policy. Bangladesh, despite growing trade with China, remains sceptical of borrowing $ 25 bn promised by Xi under BRI two years back, according to persons who monitor BRI projects in the region.
Local Baloch leaders are up in arms as the impoverished region will hardly benefit from CPEC projects. "Gwadar is not for sale," Aslam Bhootani, a political leader from the port city, recently told media. Baloch insurgents are on a warpath against CPEC and are targeting Chinese officials. While Gwadar gives China much coveted access to the Indian Ocean Region, Beijing has failed to take into consideration local sentiments in Balochistan by depending on a friendly government in Islamabad. On January 29, Maldives' attorney general announced the government was seeking foreign help to examine the records. Maldives ministry of finance has set up its own task force to investigate the contracts signed with China by President Abdullah Yameen.
After Yameen lost polls last September, Chinese Ambassador to Madlives Zhang Lizhong presented former president Mohamed Nasheed, a note stating the Maldives owed China $3.2 billion -- more than double the $1.3 billion worth of Chinese loans on official books. Nasheed is a relative and advisor to the current Maldives president. China's foreign ministry dismissed the incident as "false." In Sri Lanka, which is caught in an external debt crisis, the government is now seeking support from Japan and India. Recently, a US aircraft carrier also received logistics supply from Colombo. The $1.5 billion Hambantota Port on the southern coast is now in Chinese hands after a controversial debt-for-equity swap. Besides China is funding the $1.4 billion port City, a 269-hectare area of land reclaimed from the waters off Colombo.
Last month, Sri Lanka announced a $1.85 billion light rail system in Colombo, to be built by Japan with concessional loans. Subsequently, India offered a new set of trains to upgrade Sri Lanka's railways through $1.3 billion in concessional financing. In Bangladesh, there is quiet unease over the $24 billion pledged -- but not yet disbursed -- for BRI. The Hasina government has gone slow with amid resistance from the country’s finance ministry. Of the 115 countries that BRI touches, Asia accounted for 39% of the contract value from January 2014 to June 2018, higher than Africa's 30%, according to Moody's Investors Service. Criticisms are rife that China is seeking not only financial profits but political gains from the BRI.