The Belt and Road Initiative also known as BRI initiative lunched China, is regarded as one of the biggest trade projects focusing on connectivity and co-operation between Asia, Africa and Europe. The stats suggest that the project includes over 65% of worlds populations and covering 40% of world’s GDP. In context of South of Asia countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka are already a part of BRI. China also promoting BRI project in Bhutan and trying to convince them to be a part of BRI. While India being a part of BRI still negotiating the terms with China to meet their own demands. This puts the South Asia countries in a vital role to play in BRI. However, to implement BRI China needs to resolve their various political and economical issues with South Asia countries to convince them gain the trust of China on this trade initiation. Now it can be assumed that eventually the negotiating parties will come into terms with China and lunch the project, one of main concern will be the protection of intellectual property, which I think has been yet neglecting. The trade route will open the border of trade between countries which means national laws will not be enough to protect South Asian trade deals with China and internally. Thus, it is crucial to have a discussion on frame working the IP laws according to South Asia prospective.
If you look at IP laws in South Asia, countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have very similar laws and stills follows the rules and regulations made during colonial era with some minor distinctions. Although Nepal has their own IP laws, countries like Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan are still taking initiatives to implement IP laws. Considering the cultural similarities there is a big market value in the South Asia countries in between. BRI project will bring the trade connection more accessible. Although countries do follow the international standard made by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the implication of national laws are still questionable. For example, in Bangladesh the laws of IP had enforced for some time now but not properly executed. Most of peoples are not even aware of their intellectual rights thus those rights are constantly violated by infringement, pirating etc. And, they have yet to implement any legal framework for protecting their Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. With increasing of software technology day by day the rights of people have been suffering badly due to lack of effective optical disk regulation and enforcement of Copyright Act. In India, it is also been seen that lack of enforcement and awareness also harming process of protecting the IPR. From 2005-2012 to India Patent office has received only 59,998 applications compare to China which received 2 million in the same period. Business houses and individuals doesn’t seem to care when it comes to rights of trademark in e-commerce business. Pakistan is also still struggling to execute properly. While Nepal is progressing in a right way but due to current economic crisis it would be difficult execute those cases because IP cases tends to be costly. Rest of the countries are still looking up to WIPO for assistance in their IP sector. This concludes how far behind we are in terms of IPR comparing to other developed countries. Since China plays a key role in BRI and their IPR are much stronger, this will give them a strong advantage and an opportunity of influence over South Asia Region. The BRI also connects China to South Asia, Africa and Europe. With poor IPR protection in South Asia, the whole region will scuffle to keep up once the free trade gate opens.
BRI initiatives embraces the connectivity among the parties, but this also means a scope of various infringement of IPR if the domestic laws for those protection is not up to the mark. Principle of National Treatment requires support of foreign products by the domestic laws, but it will be difficult to protect those South Asia region. Thus, it is crucial to find out a proper resolution to solve this arise apprehension. My view is to suggest a create new framework of IP laws in South Asia region. However, despite following the western laws which we are doing regarding IP law from the colonial age, the focus should be in fulfilling the demands of the South Asia region by putting cultural, economic and geographical indications with also maintaining the standards accordance per WIPO. However, the jurisdiction shall be limited to regional protection at starting point and later based the success of such will expand its jurisdiction to China as China is keen on to be a part of SAARC. Than it will also give opportunity of monitoring the IPR of South Asia across the region. The idea is to create an organization which deals the IP sector South Asia territory and resolves their international conflict regarding IPR.
This new proposed legal framework for IPR in South Asia is no easy task. The current political tension in internal sector and among countries has become a barrier get every state in a same room to communicate with each other. There has not been any SAARC summit since the 18th in 2014 on Nepal. It will be a very difficult chore to bring all the representatives of the South Asia Region and bring them to talk about something which most of the population not even aware about. Moreover, transformation of the legal framework over already existing legal framework will require legal resource power which will be costly. But since the promotion of connectivity through BRI is going strong by creating opportunities for one on one communication among concern citizens and young students through various programs, having an conversation on IPR would create a positive vibe around the region to be concerned about their rights and remedy. One of the essential requirements of this regional framework requires a functional body which mitigates the conflict arises between the countries. But unfortunately, there is no body of such exist in this region. Because without it countries will have to rely on the domestic court in order to sort out the matter, which will also create a
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