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Rivalry and illusion shape Asia's connectivity contest

In era of 'Belt and Road' initiative, India and Japan seek to blunt China's expansion

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at a press conference during Modi's visit to Tokyo in November 2016.   © Reuters

Asia is reintegrating after centuries of division caused by politics, Western intervention, shifting power dynamics and evolving technologies. With the U.S. distracted by domestic political squabbles, a key question is whether the forces of integration in Asia are greater than the forces of division, and what that means for the future of the world's most dynamic region.

The three Asian great powers -- China, India and Japan -- are each pursuing their own connectivity initiatives in response to the region's changing economics and evolving geopolitics. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China's Belt and Road Initiative is the most prominent. India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the world's fastest-growing big economy. Driven more by politics than economics, it is pursuing a "Neighborhood First" strategy as well as an "Act East" policy to enhance connectivity in nearby areas to prevent China from encroaching on India's strategic space. Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to link with like-minded powers in Southeast and South Asia to check Chinese domination of the Asian littoral.

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